Rep. Scott Rigell’s (R-Va.) effort to pressure President Obama to come seek authorization from Congress before any Syria strikes is gathering steam on both sides of the aisle.
“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,” the letter states. “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.”
“…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.”
Stating “this is not the King’s army,” Rigell was behind a National Defense Authorization Act amendment in June that reminded Obama of his responsibility to get permission from Congress before using military force.
This week’s letter to the president had gathered 65 signatories from both side of the aisle as of late this morning, despite recess not being the easiest time to circulate letters.
Signatories thus far include House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Tea Party GOPs and former Ethics Committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). No congressional leaders have signed on yet.
“I believe that deep inside each member of Congress, regardless of party, is the desire to do the right thing. The right thing in this case, should the president call us into session, if he really believes that the use of force is both warranted and imminent, as I expressed in letter, signed and joined by Republicans and Democrats now over 40, and we’ll have, I believe, more tomorrow, then he has a duty to call us into session give us, say, for example, 24 hours to come back,” Rigell said yesterday on MSNBC.
“There are members of Congress around the world on different trips. Some are at home, of course. But that’s enough time to get here… There’s no more important issue before the American people than the use of American force and putting our young folks into harm’s way.”
The congressman noted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could call lawmakers back into session, and “that’s his prerogative.”
“I’m sure the same is true of majority leader, Senator Reid. Now, it’s very clear, though, that the president has that authority. It’s clearly delineated in our Constitution, and, again, if he believes that the facts warrant intervention, that’s a serious matter, he’d really have to lay forth the strategic objective,” Rigell continued. “Simply punishing the Assad regime, however heinous it is, he could characterize it easily as criminal. Punishment is not in and of itself a strategic objective.”
Rigell said the evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria “is already pretty clear and they’re going to come out with the affirmative. That is that they were used.”
“First and foremost, the moral foundation upon which a commander in chief can exercise force in this case where a threat is not imminent and we’ve not been attacked is really to go before the American people through their elected representatives. You know, when the American people are given good information, they’ll make good decisions. I found this to be true in my district,” he continued. “So I’m really hopeful. I’m optimistic. Perhaps it’s naivete or idealism. That’s all right.