A group of over 40 Congress members have sent President Trump a bipartisan letter reminding him that the US Constitution requires that the president seek Congressional approval before taking military action in Syria or elsewhere. Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced via Twitter on Monday that the letter had been sent to the White House.
Ironically Rep. Amash made the announcement just as Monday’s evening’s massive Israeli strike on Syria was underway, which resulted in a downed Russian surveillance plane carrying 14 troops amidst the confusion of missiles flying over the Mediterranean as it was hit by Syrian defense attempting to stave off the attack by Israel.
While the Pentagon formally denied any US role in the strikes, it was an extremely dangerous situation with yet again the potential for serious escalation between Russia and the US and its allies.
The letter was signed by a handful of Republicans including Thomas Massie, Mark Sanford, and Walter Jones, as well as 42 Democrats. It begins as follows:
We write to strongly urge you to consult with and obtain authorization from Congress before ordering any additional U.S. military action in Syria. We are deeply concerned by recent reports indicating that your administration is preparing again to strike Syria in the event of another chemical weapons attack.
.@RepBarbaraLee @RepWalterJones @RepMcGovern and I, joined by @RepThomasMassie @RepSanfordSC and 42 Democrats, sent @POTUS this letter, reminding him that the Constitution requires that he obtain Congress’s approval before taking offensive military action in #Syria or elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/yfKDm34INy
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) September 17, 2018
And the letter continues by outlining Constitutional limits on the President’s power to wage war without seeking Congressional approval first:
The Constitution gives the power to declare war to the U.S. Congress and only permits the President to act in delf-defense, not simply to further perceived U.S. interests. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 also requires the President to consult with and obtain authorization from Congress prior to the use of offensive military force.
The letter follows a similar one that was signed by 88 total Congressional members last April, thus it appears pushback in the House against a potential future US attack on Syria has waned in the wake of unfounded prior accusations that Assad is “planning” to use chemical weapons.
In recent years in Syria, as the Pentagon’s “boots on the ground” presence grows (now at over 2,000 publicly acknowledged troops in eastern Syria), and as calls for direct military intervention against Damascus are also heightened, the White House has routinely invoked the 9/11 era Authorization For Use of Military Force (AUMF) — mainly framing its mission as “anti-ISIL” and increasingly in terms of preventing Iranian expansion, in a policy that goes back through the Obama administration.
Meanwhile other Congressional leaders have called for a full US attack on the Syrian government, with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger (Illinois) appearing on CNN this week to argue that American forces should impose a no-fly-zone over Syria.