Idaho’s Simpson, Labrador, ask Obama to seek congressional approval on Syria

Idaho Republican Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador both signed a letter with colleagues — including House Speaker John Boehner — to President Obama on Wednesday saying they “strongly urge” the commander-in-chief ”to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.”

News releases were issued by both lawmakers Wednesday afternoon:

Simpson:

 

Simpson Joins Colleagues in requesting President to Seek Congressional Approval before taking action in Syria

Boise, ID – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joins fellow Members of Congress in signing a letter to the President of the United States regarding the use of military force in Syria. Members are requesting President Obama seek congressional authorization before ordering the use of U.S. military force.

“I am very concerned about the consequences of engaging U.S. assets in another foreign conflict and believe the White House should consult with Congress before taking any action in Syria,” Simpson said.

The letter was sent to the President today and reads as follows:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets. Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.

Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.” In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“…President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya—which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration—without prior congressional authorization.”

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional. If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?

If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request. We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.

Labrador:

 

LABRADOR Joins Letter Asking President to

Get Authorization from Congress

Before Any U.S. Military Action In Syria

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) signed a letter today urging President Obama to consult with Congress before initiating any military action against Syria.  The letter, circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) informs the President that “engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

 

“The Constitution is quite clear that the president cannot commit our troops to war (absent an attack upon the United States) without the approval of Congress,” said Rep. Labrador in a separate statement. “For this reason, it is imperative that President Obama consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military forces against Syria.  The President should not be under any illusion that Congress will be silent should he move forward without our consent.  When it comes to the power to declare war, Congress’ rights, and the President’s responsibilities, are not open to interpretation; they are established facts.  What’s at stake here isn’t the wisdom of going to war with Syria – that is a debate that can and should take place – it’s the question of whether or not the President will follow the Constitution, and whether or not Congress will demand that he follow it.”

 

The text of the letter to President Obama, which Rep. Labrador signed onto, is below.

 

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria.  Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. 

While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets.  Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.

Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.”  In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“…President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya—which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration—without prior congressional authorization.”

 

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional.  If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?

  

If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request.  We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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