Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 4, 2015

Syria War Resolution Will Be Narrowed, Lawmakers Say

It took less than 24 hours for lawmakers to realize that the draft authorization for the use of military force sent to Congress by President Barack Obama would open the door to a prolonged war with Syria.

That’s not something that Obama or top administration have been publicly pushing for — all indications are that the plan is for targeted action to deter the regime of Bashar al-Assad from further use of chemical weapons. But, as became clear on Capitol Hill on Sunday, Congress has no appetite for the broader mandate that the White House technically proposed.

As #WGDB noted Saturday night, the draft would authorize Obama to use U.S. military assets “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” to prevent Assad from using or proliferating chemical weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., reportedly said after a Sunday afternoon classified briefing in the Capitol that administration officials had conceded the resolution language would be modified.

“I think the biggest question I heard is that the president’s request is open-ended,” Roberts said, according to The Washington Post.

“That has to be rectified, and they simply said in answer to that that they would work with the Congress and try to come back with a more prescribed resolution. But I’m not too sure that the people who answered that are the people that have that decision to make,” added Roberts, a former Intelligence Committee chairman.

Likewise, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said that Democratic aides were already working on revisions. Senate Democratic leadership aides did not immediately respond to a request for an update on that work.

“I know it’s going to be amended in the Senate,” the Vermont Democrat said, according to Politico.

In a statement issued Saturday, Leahy praised Obama for breaking from the practice of recent presidents acting to use force without expressed backing from Congress.

“I continue to oppose introducing U.S. troops into this conflict, and I continue to believe that seeking congressional approval of military action is called for. Given the positions taken by past presidents, the President’s decision to seek congressional approval is especially commendable,” Leahy said. “I look forward to this debate, and we should have it openly in the Congress.”

House members, including Rep. Jim Himes, echoed the comments made by Leahy and Roberts.

“There was a lot of concern for the resolution as drafted is overly broad,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “You know, it has no limitations in either time or scope of activity, including boots on the ground, which I think pretty much nobody has an appetite for.”

Rep. Brad Sherman suggested similar thoughts in a statement released after the classified briefing. The California Democrat has already drafted amendments to narrow the scope of the resolution.

“While the President makes the case for limited action, the resolution he proposes is without limits. The proposed resolution would give the President the authority to act with no limit on the duration of our involvement and it would authorize all types of military action, including boots-on-the-ground,” Sherman said. “We cannot give the President a blank check.”

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.

Comments (19)

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    Interesting what’s going on here: the administration gives congress an initial draft that they know will never pass, congress amends it and, having done so, is more likely to pass it. The question changes from “will we approve of intervention in Syria” to “what is the scope of intervention in Syria that we will approve”? Congress is probably stupid enough to fall for it.

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