Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

Freshman Senators Join Calls for Syria Authorization

Kaine Fire Fighters 11 092512 445x295 Freshman Senators Join Calls for Syria Authorization

Kaine issued a statement Monday calling for congressional involvement in the decision to intervene in Syria. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A pair of Democratic freshmen want Congressional authorization for action against Syria unless there’s an imminent threat to the United States, a position that would seem to require Congress to return from August recess.

Their voices, combined with more than 20 House lawmakers who are also seeking to return early to deal with the issue, seem likely to fall on deaf ears.

“I urge the Administration to continue to exercise restraint, because absent an imminent threat to America’s national security, the U.S. should not take military action without Congressional authorization,” Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., said in a Tuesday statement.

Murphy encouraged the Obama administration to consider the possibility that a small-scale military strike against the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad could lead the U.S. into a broader and less predictable conflict.

“Before engaging in a military strike against Assad’s forces, the United States must understand that this action will likely draw us into a much wider and much longer-term conflict that could mean an even greater loss of life within Syria,” Murphy said.

Murphy isn’t the only Senate newcomer taking a skeptical view. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., issued a separate statement Monday calling for congressional involvement in the decision to act in Syria. Kaine has undertaken an effort with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain aimed at overhauling the War Powers Resolution, which helps define the role of Congress in military intervention.

“Absent an imminent threat to United States national security, the U.S. should not be engaged in military action without Congressional approval,” Kaine said. “And while it’s important that we continue to work closely with our allies to help Syria achieve a negotiated, inclusive political solution, those who employ such weapons and indiscriminate violence must be held accountable.”

As President Barack Obama continues to consider the options for action against Syria, the administration is briefing key lawmakers in both chambers, but there have been no calls from leadership for Congress to return.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about the comparison with the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister David Cameron is recalling parliament from the summer break to consider the Syria situation on Thursday.

“Obviously, this is a different country with a different form of government,” said Carney.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin was among those consulted by the administration on Tuesday.

“This morning, the administration briefed me on the situation in Syria,” the Michigan Democrat said in a statement. “The administration is proceeding cautiously, consulting with our allies and other countries in the region to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. The president is considering a broad range of options that have been presented by our military leaders.”

Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has also said Obama has consulted him on the issue.

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