Biggest Stories of 2013: Congress Actually Thinks for Itself on Syria

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

syrian rebels

A strange thing happened on the way to war with Syria: Dems on the Hill began to admit that they would only support a strike on Syria out of loyalty to Obama; and then they began to balk even at that. In short, Congress pushed back against the Executive Office in a manner not seen in the last 5 years. And it was a welcome sight.

Back in March of this year, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was rumored to have used chemical weapons against his own people and, as United Liberty’s Jeff Scott wrote at the time, it came at a time when there had already been a “bipartisan drumbeat from the usual suspects like Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Carl Levin, plus the ‘humanitarian’ left like the Washington Post’s editorial page eager to get the United States involved in the civil war currently going on in Syria.”

Forgetting for a moment the convenience of timing – calls for intervention in Syria followed closely by an event that would make it almost a matter of humanitarian ethics to get involved, even for the staunchest peacenik – what was most remarkable about the situation is that Congress chose to think and act independently, pushing back on intervention even as Obama ramped up his interest in the region. And there’s even reason to believe that the pushback had something to do with a general outcry from the American people who were, for the most part, adamantly opposed to action in Syria.

With libertarian wunkerkind Rand Paul leading the charge, it all culminated in a letter from House Republicans to the White House, reminding the President that he had a responsibility (and was possibly bound by law depending on an official declaration of Syria as a direct threat or not) to consult Congress before taking action. And, even as she denied that the President was mandated to consult Congress, Nancy Pelosi ultimately acknowledged that she didn’t think Dems on the Hill were on board.

Ultimately, the US never took action, instead deferring to Russian President Vladimir Putin to tell us what we should think and feel about Syria. So what happened to the reliable party line? Hard to say with authority. But it would appear that Rand Paul roused enough interest of the issue in the minds of the American electorate who were vocally opposed that Dems chose not to risk their seats facing an election year. That’s the non-cynical answer, and the one we all hope is true.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.