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February 9, 2016

If Obama Bypasses Congress on Syria, Will He Face Consequences?

Dozens of House Republicans and a smattering of Democrats are demanding President Barack Obama get congressional authorization before ordering attacks on Syria, but no lawmaker seems to have an answer for what they will do if Obama goes ahead anyway.

While some Republicans have bandied about in recent weeks the idea of impeaching the president, no one’s yet seriously pursuing that avenue with regard to Syria.

“The phrase is a very serious term,” said Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va. “It’s sobering, and it’s not one that I’m flippant with.”

Rigell is behind a letter signed by dozens of members of Congress calling on Obama to seek Congress’ authorization before striking Syria or else risk “violat[ing] the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” In an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday, he reiterated that “by any objective measure,” Obama was “pushing the boundaries” of constitutionality.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said “the impeachment battle is not one that I think we could win,” but he said he would support impeachment proceedings should someone else bring them up.

“I wouldn’t initiate them myself, although it is clearly unconstitutional,” Massie said of conducting a war in Syria without a specific authorization. “I’m just not the guy who will be leading this charge.”

It’s not clear what else Congress could do on the issue, particularly given that the White House has telegraphed that the attacks would be of a short duration and could be over before lawmakers return from the August break.

Congressional impotence in the face of a president intent on military action isn’t new; the Syria debate is to some extent a replay of the dispute over Obama’s launching of cruise missiles in Libya in 2011 without Congressional authorization. Backers of that intervention, including then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., sought to pass an authorization, but those efforts failed, as did an effort to end the operation.

At that time, Obama argued that he was not required to seek Congress’ approval under the War Powers Act, which prohibits acts of military force in a foreign country except in cases of a national emergency. Instead, Obama said, the mission was being led by NATO allies and involved minimal danger to U.S. armed forces.

That doesn’t mean lawmakers didn’t complain — both then and now.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to committee chairmen to members of the GOP rank-and-file are at a minimum demanding robust consultation with Congress, although Boehner has not called for the House to return to take up the issue or said Congress must authorize a strike.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., said in a statement Tuesday that while the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons is “unacceptable,” Obama has a responsibility to “consult with Congress, and explain to the American people, whether this action has indeed crossed the ‘red line.'”

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., released a statement of his own, calling the consequences of military action in Syria “too great for Congress to be brushed aside.”

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., described the intent of the Founding Fathers in lengthy detail in respect to the War Powers Act, concluding that absent authorization from Congress, “the order of a military attack on the government of Syria would be illegal and unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, statements from Obama’s Democratic allies in the House also began to pile up Tuesday night in light of the growing probability that the White House could by the end of this week go into Syria without consultation from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who are still back in their home districts for the August recess.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee who also signed onto Rigell’s letter, suggested that everyone, “including members of the Administration,” read the War Powers Act to clarify the parameters for deciding whether to use military force.

“An effort is being made by the Administration to comply with International Law — but first we must comply with American law,” Lofgren said. “The War Powers Act requires action by Congress before engaging in hostilities unless our country is attacked. The civil war in Syria, with its atrocities, is a matter of serious humanitarian condition. But this civil war does not constitute an attack on the U.S.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while stopping short of saying she felt congressional involvement was imperative, said that “Members of Congress stand ready to consult with President Obama to consider the appropriate course of action in response to these acts of brutality.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., dismissed the talk of Congress coming back to vote on an authorization as an academic exercise on MSNBC on Tuesday, even though U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled Parliament. “It’s not going to happen,” Corker said.

Correction: Aug. 28, 1:39 p.m.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte had signed the Rigell letter.

  • Mai
  • Winston Blake

    News of the chemical weapons attack in Syria was published one day before the massacre…

    Salafist terrorists in Syria murdered innocent civilians, uploaded the videos of their crimes in East Ghouta, Damascus on August 20, and then blamed the Syrian government for the attack which took place during the early morning hours of August 21.

    Sodom Hussein Obama smuggled weapons into Libya and some of those rockets from the U.S. embassy in Benghazi were used in attacks against Egyptians.

    We have chemical warfare against American children coming across the border with the narcoterrorist drug trade… The death toll in Chicago is much higher than Syria, why not send the troops to Chicago?

    Egypt says “fúck you Obama, we are going to kill the terrorists…”

  • teapartydoc

    If Congress doesn’t hold him accountable we will hold them accountable, and it’s bye, bye GOP, and hello anything else.

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  • sandbun

    Can someone explain why Constitutional lawyer Obama is so determined to ignore the rule of law? What is the justification? He’s taking his sweet time anyhow, why would it be so difficult to ask for authorization? He’d probably get it based on the vote to arm the rebels. For how quickly he surrenders whenever the Republicans ask him to – “Let’s have a grand bargain and cut Social Security in order to get the debt limit raised! Let’s get rid of the individual mandate so Republicans will like my healthcare bill!” – why is this the one area where he’s purposely provocative? Especially when it’s the area he seems to be the least prepared to handle as president.

    • skhpcola

      Ozero is not, nor has he ever been, a Constitutional lawyer. He is Alinsky-ite filth, just like the people that he’s installed into regulatory fiefdoms, and just like the cabal of D-im leftist scum that infests our congress. Neither he nor they care one whit for the founding principles of our nation.

      • Jesse4

        Actually, he was a constitutional lawyer.

  • eddodt

    quick answer….HELL NO!

  • Chris Of Rights

    I predict the consequences will be somewhat less than when he bypassed Congress on Libya. It’s always easier the second time.

    What? You mean he didn’t face any consequences at all the first time? Well, then that makes this question kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?

  • Michael

    This gutless, self centered, do-nothing congress will not act until we replace them with true patriotic Americans.

  • icthelite

    Congress has not held this maniac responsible for any other violation of the constitution why would we think they would do anything if he violated it again and again and again?

  • PILover
  • robert

    ovomit/satan has already by passed congress.sending additionally throops to afganistan,without congress approval.wh internet live birth form,which is a computer generated{layered forgery treason/fraud/felony}a ss# that belongs to a dead 119 yr old Connecticut person{treason/fraud/felony}ovomit ignored a Georgia supreme court subpoena,no one is above the law{treason/fraud}ovomit has all his records hidden/sealed,and spends millions to keep them hidden/sealed,and he can,t be verified{treason/fraud}American seals went into bengazi,in a Vietnam era helicopter,and the rooster was changed at the last minutes,and with 4 dead American,never sent a rescue attempt,and the stand down order comes from one person{ovomit treason against we the people,and the constitituion.obamacare is a tax,and the govt is not suppose to force health care on American citizens{unconstitituional}god bless sheriff joe and cold case posse,dr oily taitz,chuck Norris,frank serpico,and all legal American veternas/citizens.yea thou I walk in the valley of the shahdow of death,i will fear no evil/ovomit

    • Jesse4

      What a chimp!

  • Farnsworh

    No consequences for Mr. Obama as long as there exists the implicit threat of race riots if he is seriously challenged.

  • elHombre

    Oh, yes, the impotent, corrupt Congress will surely make him pay.

  • bittman

    Regrettably, if the House would impeach Obama for his numerous violations of our Constitution, Senator Reid would make sure that the impeachment proceedings died in the Senate. Our only hope is that the Republicans can take the Senate majority and maintain its majority in the House. If that doesn’t happen, I am afraid it may not be possible to preserve our Constitution and our rights guaranteed by the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution. The Progressives want to provide us with “material” rights and remove our “freedom and liberty” rights. They want to control every aspect of our lives.

    • Valerie Stroop Deacon

      We, the people, better get it together and take control before this crap reaches a point of no return!!!

  • nadadhimmi

    Obama can do whatever he feels like with complete impunity. His skin color insures that. Because raacism.

  • Layla

    This gutless, impotent Congress won’t hold ANYONE accountable. They won’t even honor their own oaths of office. And Obamacare? This worthless government body has exempted itself, which will be the final nail in many coffins on Election Day. I don’t think anyone out here in America cares anymore whether we hold a majority or not. Karma is going to be hell.

  • iconoclast

    No. There are too many traitorous Democrats in Congress to do anything else than object.

    Democrats-when you need an internal enemy.

  • marijoca

    I believe that the GOP is itching for the President to make a major mistake such as attacking Syria without Congressional approval. This is the time for all to call and/or email the President and tell him not to do this. We can’t afford it, we don’t trust the intel and are still suspicious as to who did the attach, and why do we want to go kill more people there? This is Syria’s civil war not ours.

    Call all your representatives letting them know you don’t support ANY strike on Syria.

  • richard40

    “If Obama Bypasses Congress on Syria, Will He Face Consequences”
    Of course not, when has Obama ever faced consequences for anything, todays dems, and the MSM, and occasionally Bush neocon rhinos like McCain and Graham, will cover for him no matter what. Only one consequence would mean anything, if Obama drags the dems down to electoral defeat in 2014 and 2016, like Bush did in 2006-2008. Hopefully that would introduce a reform movement in the dem paty like the tea party is now reforming the repubs. Whether that will happen is a different story, but the only hope for our nation is if it does.

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