Congressional Critic of Obama's Use of War Powers OK with Current Strikes

A House lawmaker who has gone after President Obama for what he says have been violations of the War Powers Resolution says he believes the commander in chief is acting within his authority in strikes on Iraq.


Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) added an amendment to a defense bill last summer scolding Obama for trying to operate a “king’s army,” stating, “The precedence set by the Executive Branch in its assertion that Congress plays no role in military actions like those taken in Libya is contrary to the intent of the Framers and of the Constitution which vests sole authority to declare war in the Legislative Branch.”

Two months later, Rigell warned the administration to not treat Congress like a “potted plant” as it weighed how to responded to Bashar al-Assad crossing the chemical weapons “red line.” Rigell rallied a bipartisan effort to pressure Obama to come before Congress before taking any action.

Today, though, Rigell said of Obama’s airstrikes and drops of humanitarian aid to Yazidis under siege by ISIS on Mount Sinjar:  “I believe these actions are consistent with the president’s authority as defined by the Constitution and the War Powers Act.”

“It could be argued that this use of U.S. military force to provide a means of escape for those trapped atop the mountain has no direct connection to our national security, and thus requires prior authorization from Congress,” Rigell said in a statement this afternoon. “However, the need to move quickly to prevent further loss of life of men, women and children is not in dispute, and the action authorized by the president – at this point at least – is purely defensive in nature.”


“Importantly, providing a means of escape reflects our American character and core values, which includes a willingness to do what we can to defend the defenseless and to safeguard the most basic human right, which is life itself,” he said.

Rigell stressed that “though I agree with and support these recent decisions by President Obama, my strong objection to his past willingness to disregard the War Powers Act, and concern that he may disregard it again, specifically in Iraq, remains.”

“Accordingly, I urge the president to present to the American people his vision and plan to elevate peace and stability in Iraq,” added the congressman whose district includes large military populations in Norfolk and Hampton. “Should that ever include the introduction of U.S. armed forces into hostilities, the president must first seek and receive authorization from Congress. It is not the king’s army.”


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