war powers

Obama goes to skeptical Congress for Syria intervention

Barack Obama

In what was a welcome development, President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that he would make the case to a skeptical Congress to authorize military intervention in Syria, following an example set late last week by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” said President Obama in the White House Rose Garden.

“As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action,” he continued, referencing the failed vote that took place on Thursday in Parliament.

“Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective,” he added. “We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.”

House bringing up the rear on Libya

Well after the 90 time limit for President Obama to bring US troops home since he didn’t have Congressional approval under the War Powers Act, the House is looking at either approving or ending the Libya mission.  Welcome to the party folks, but the truth is that President Obama should have already brought the troops home from this one.

From The Hill:

Whether either resolution will have the support to pass the House is unclear. While the House has come close to blocking funds for the mission in recent weeks, a measure authorizing the operation could draw support from Republicans whose concerns have focused on the lack of congressional input.

The House is also likely to consider separate proposals to restrict funding for the Libya campaign as part of a Defense appropriations bill this week.

[Emphasis mine]

The truth is that Congress really only has one option, and that’s to order the cessation of all military activities connected with Libyan operations, even in a support capacity.  I’m fine with stipulations that permit US personnel to intervene in search and rescue activities in international waters, things like that, but nothing more.  Failure to do so will set a dangerous precedent that future presidents may seize and use in violation of the law.

President Obama engaged in military operations without Congressional approval for over 60 days.  By law, he had an additional 30 days to bring troops home.  He didn’t.  House Republicans, if the choose to allow authorization at this point in time, will effectively say “Oh, it’s not a problem.  Laws don’t apply to the President, even when the explicitly say they do” and permit him to continue his activities.

Obama, once the anti-war candidate, now fully embraces the Bush doctrine of preemptive unilateral war


Democrats swept into control of both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections on a wave of discontent with the Iraq war and then-President Bush’s foreign adventurism. President Obama campaigned over the next two years as the explicitly anti-war candidate. He was the only Democrat running who had opposed the war in Iraq, though he wasn’t in Congress to have to vote for it at the time. Now President Obama is explicitly embracing the Bush doctrine of preemptive war to pretend he has authority to unilaterally attack the ISIS forces in Iraq.

On Wednesday evening, Obama made a primetime address to the nation to explain the strategy against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which he said he didn’t have last week. In the address and an interview on Meet the Press the Sunday before, he said he already has the authority to pursue that strategy, which John Yoo, a former Bush administration official who literally wrote the memo on Bush’s war powers, says is exactly the same as Bush’s.

Today in Liberty: Obama ‘extremely troubled’ by VA report, economy contracted in 1Q, Snowden speaks about NSA power

“Every once in a while, somebody has to get the bureaucracy by the neck and shake it loose and say ‘stop doing what you’re doing.’” — Ronald Reagan

Legislation introduced to repeal the War Powers Resolution

War Powers

The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, was meant to serve as a check on executive power and keep constitutional authority to declare war in the hands of Congress.

The law gave presidents the ability to engage in military action only when there is a formal declaration of war, authorization from Congress, or a national emergency created by an attack on the United States. But the law has instead been used by presidents to expand their power by engaging in hostilities against countries that don’t represent a threat to the United States.

Hoping to return that constitutionally delegated power to Congress, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) has introduced a measure that would repeal the War Power Resolution.

“The use of military force against a sovereign nation is an act of war. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the sole power to declare war,” said Garrett in a statement from his office. “Unfortunately, since its passage in 1973, the War Powers Resolution has been stripped of its original purpose and has instead served as a temporary, de facto authorization for the executive branch to use military force whenever it deems it necessary.

“Today, I am introducing a bill that would repeal the War Powers Resolution,” he added “Rather than permitting de facto military authorization, sometimes for up to 90 days, my legislation would return the power to go to war to its rightful place—the United States Congress.”

Rand Paul: “U.S. should not fight a war to save face”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has emerged as one of the strongest voices against President Barack Obama’s push for war in Syria. He strongly challenged Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week, challenging the administration to respect whatever decision Congress makes on intervention in the Middle Eastern nation.

Critics charge that Paul is an “isolationist.” Of course, that’s just not true. What Paul has espoused is a constitutional foreign policy, one that respects our obligations, but challenges the idea that the United States is the “policeman of the word.”

In a departure from both Republicans and Democrats, Paul believes the United States should be reluctant to get involved in foreign conflicts and that a president should seek approval from Congress before any military action is taken, which is the constitutional obligation of the commender-in-chief.

But Paul doesn’t believe that the United States should intervene in the civil war in Syria, where rebels are fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In an op-ed at Time, the Kentucky Senator explains why he will vote against President Obama’s war.

“War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened. I don’t think the situation in Syria passes that test,” wrote Paul. “Even the State Department argues that ‘there’s no military solution here that’s good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution.’”

John McCain apparently hasn’t read the Constitution

It comes as no surprise that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is clamoring for war against Syria. He’s been one of the loudest voices pushing the Obama Administration to fund rebels — including an al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra Front — who are fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

But McCain, in his desire for war, is criticizing President Barack Obama for going to Congress to seek authorization for military force in the Middle Eastern country. During an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Old Guard Republican said that he is worried about having “535 commanders in chief,” referencing Congress:

In a slew of media appearances Tuesday morning, McCain said he would not vote for a resolution that doesn’t do enough in Syria, nor one that significantly constrains the president’s powers.

“I think it would be a very serious situation where we are now 535 commanders in chief. Look, the president of the United States is the only commander,” McCain said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “Other presidents have acted in keeping with the War Powers Act. And so I think that it would be, frankly, it would be a risk. If I thought it was a meaningless resolution that constrained the president from doing what’s necessary, I couldn’t vote for it.”

The Arizona Republican said if a resolution in Congress doesn’t meet certain criteria, he won’t support it, even though he stands by what he said in front of the White House on Monday, that it would be “catastrophic” if the vote in Congress fails.

More House members urge White House for vote on Syria intervention

Members of the House of Representatives have signed two separate letters urging President Barack Obama to seek congressional authorization before he launches a military strike against Syria.

In addition to the 140 signatories from both parties on the letter from Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) penned a separate missive yesterday that received support from 53 House Democrats.

“While we understand that as Commander in Chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack,” wrote Lee in her letter to President Obama. “As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

Lee expressed concern for human rights violations and “horrific” loss of life in Syria, but she explained that this “should not draw us into an unwise war.” The letter also lends support to efforts in the United Nations Security Council to build an “international consensus condemning the alleged use of chemical weapons” and any potential response.

Rand Paul challenges John Kerry on War Powers Act

John Kerry

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next Secretary of State, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to discuss the administration’s foreign policy. While the confirmation hearing was mostly easy for Kerry, he did face a tough line of questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Paul, who has been a frequent critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of both parties, asked Kerry about his views regarding unilateral war, specifically regarding military action in Libya.

“I agree with candidate Barack Obama, who said in 2007 that the president doesn’t have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” explained Paul. “I’d like to know if you agree with candidate Barack Obama or President Barack Obama, who took us to war in Libya without congressional authority, unilaterally?”

Kerry responded, “Well, Senator Paul, one of the things this committee has spent a lot of time on is the War Powers Act, which I support, and I believe in congressional authority to go to war.” However, Kerry tried to give himself some latitude, explaining that “are occasions which I have supported which a President of the United States has to make a decision immediately and implement that decision, execute on it, immediately.” Kerry listed occasions where he has supported a president bypassing Congress, explaining that he though President Obama went with that tradition when he authorized military action in Libya.

Rand Paul slams Mitt Romney on war powers

Earlier this week, I noted that Mitt Romney had taken a view of presidential war powers that was even more troubling than that of President Barack Obama, who had taken part in a bombing campaign of Libya without congressional approval. Romney told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, that he didn’t need authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran.

For all the recent talk from our conservative friends about executive overreach by President Obama, Romney comments are perhaps even more startling given the potential consquences of unilaterally going to war with Iran, both from constitutional and foreign policy perspectives. And even though he has endorsed him, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) isn’t happy with Romney’s recent declaration:

I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:

I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.

This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.

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