congressional authorization

There is reason to feel optimistic on this Constitution Day

Back in 2004, Congress passed an amendment offered by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to an omnibus spending bill to commemorate the signing of the Constitution and declare September 17, the day on which the document was signed by its framers, to be “Constitution Day.”

It’s ironic that a legislative body that frequently steps outside it’s limitations would pass a measure recognizing a document for which they have little regard. In the years preceding the creation of Constitution Day, Congress passed a number of measures that fly in the face of the intent and spirit of the Constitution and the rights protected therein.

But Constitution Day means a little more this year than in the past, given the renaissance the document has seen, particularly in just the past few months.

There are several examples from which we could choose to highlight the rebirth of the Constitution, such as Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster back in March or the defeat of onerous gun control measures, including expanded background checks and a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” that would have further infringed upon Second Amendment rights. But recent developments concerning the NSA and Syria are, arguably, in the back of most Americans’ minds.

Americans still oppose Syria intervention despite Obama’s push for war

Syria

In a last ditch effort to gain public support for military strikes against Syria, President Barack Obama will take his case for intervention directly to the American people in a televised address tomorrow evening.

While the White House insists that its confident that Congress will sign off on the strikes, the political reality is that there isn’t much support for involvement in another country’s internal conflict after more than a decade of war in the Middle East. Members of Congress have heard from constituents, many of whom have called or written their representatives to speak against the proposed military strikes.

Public opinion, which is driving the opposition to intervention in Syria, remains a high hurdle for President Obama to clear, according to three polls released on Monday.

CNN finds that Americans overwhelmingly believe that Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against its own people. Despite that, however, 59% said that they don’t want Congress to authorize force against Syria and 55% said that they would oppose intervention even if Congress does approve military strikes. Only 39% support President Obama’s push for war.

While the White House has reserved the option to attack without support from Congress, the CNN poll also found that 71% of Americans oppose military strikes against Syria without congressional approval.

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.”

Obama is now at war in Syria: Illegal bombing campaign begins

The Obama administration is finally doing what it wanted to do last year: bomb Syria. The airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Syria began on Monday evening with the support of some Middle Eastern allies:

U.S. Central Command said the strikes were conducted with a mix of fighters, bombers, drones and Tomahawk missiles.
[…]
Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia joined in or supported the strikes, according to Central Command.

The strikes targeted ISIS training areas, command and control centers, storage facilities and a finance center, Central Command said.

It also announced that the strikes hit not only ISIS but a separate terror group, Khorasan.

Central Command said the group is “a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans - sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group - who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.”

There are a few things to weigh when thinking at the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Syria. First, as Jim Antle points out, there is “no legal basis” for this war. President Barack Obama has a responsibility to go to Congress to seek authorization. He failed to do, and, in fact, has openly flaunted his decision to, once again, bypass the Constitution.

Senate Democrats are going to wait until after the election to authorize military action against the Islamic State

Senate Democratic leaders

Senate Democrats have decided to punt on a resolution authorizing military force against the ISIS until after the mid-term election, handing a blank check to President Barack Obama to act unilaterally in the interim:

“We’re going to take up the construction of a new authorization for the use of military force. It’s long overdue,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The authorization would focus narrowly on ISIS, likely bar the deployment of ground troops and set a one-year time limit on military action.

The plan to vote on a resolution specifically authorizing strikes against the extremist Sunni group could help reassure liberal Democrats nervous about supporting a measure that authorizes President Obama to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria.

Durbin announced the roadmap at a Democratic leadership press conference shortly before the chamber was scheduled to vote on a government funding measure that included the so-called Title 10 authority to train the rebels.

Why are Senate Democrats waiting until after the election? Well, they don’t want to do anything to upset their base, some of whom could stay at home because of dissatisfaction with what they could see as the party getting the United States into another Middle Eastern quagmire. If some leftist Democrats stay home, it could further endanger the party’s already slim chances of holding onto the upper chamber.

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.

Here we go again: Barack Obama tells Congress he doesn’t need authorization to wage war

Well, it looks like President Barack Obama is going to bypass Congress to wage a military campaign once again avoiding the constitutional role Congress has in determining when the United States is at war.

President Obama told the four main congressional leaders — House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — that he doesn’t need a vote in Congress authorizing military action against in Iraq against the Islamic State:

The president is expected to use [his Wednesday evening] speech to announce the expanded use of airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, as well as his administration’s efforts to build an international coalition to confront the terror threat.

The president is also weighing the possibility of airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, as well as asking the United Nations to pass a binding resolution requiring governments to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to the region.

While Obama told the House and Senate leaders he would welcome congressional action that demonstrates a unified front, the president told the bipartisan group “he has the authority he needs to take action against (ISIS) in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address,” according to the White House.
[…]
None of the four leaders present in the meeting mentioned the need for congressional action following the meeting, nor did they offer many clues as to what new strategy elements Obama might announce.

Republicans who whine about unconstitutional power grabs are going to let Obama go to war without congressional authorization

Back in July, before members adjourned for its summer recess, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed resolution authorizing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama over his abuses of executive power.

The lawsuit is largely viewed as an alternative to impeachment and could be used to inform Americans on what the administration is going to get around Congress as well as its failure to enforce laws as they’re written. In an op-ed at CNN, Boehner defended the coming lawsuit amid criticism from White House and Democrats and expressed disappointment at President Obama’s “flippant dismissal of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, it looks like Republican leaders aren’t going to take a similar stand for the Constitution, which puts the question of war solely in the hands of Congress. The Daily Beast reports that the legislative branch may cede its power to the White House by allowing President Obama to use military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) without congressional authorization:

Only Congress can authorize military action: A stronger response against ISIS may be necessary, but Obama must seek approval

The United States’ airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is prompting some members of Congress from both parties to push for authorization for any further military action that President Barack Obama wants to take.

The situation is not unlike the push in the House of Representatives in August 2013 to put pressure on President Obama to seek congressional authorization against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-VA) penned separate letters to the White House, signed by more than 170 colleagues, in which they encouraged the administration to come to Congress, as the Constitution requires.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) recently told the Associated Press that, in light of the current situation in Iraq, he wants to “destroy ISIS militarily,” but said that such a campaign would need to be approved by Congress. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has also said that President Obama must ask Congress for further action against ISIS, something that has gotten under the skin of his Democratic colleagues.

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.”


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