At least a few Congressional leaders were upset enough about the abrogation of the legislative body’s exclusive constitutional right to declare war that they spoke up against President Trump’s bombing attack on Syria last night.
The Hill is reporting at least one Republican congressman, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in condemning the president for not consulting Congress for authorization to conduct the airstrikes as the Constitution specifies, despite a general agreement amongst the legislators that the chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Assad against his own citizens in violation of international law deserved a response of some kind.
Other Congressional leaders to took to Twitter to express their views.
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While Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for his unlawful use of chemical weapons against civilians, the strikes that are being carried out are being done without an authorization from Congress, which is unacceptable
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) April 14, 2018
I haven’t read France’s or Britain’s “Constitution,” but I’ve read ours and no where in it is Presidential authority to strike Syria.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 14, 2018
“Sustained response” = war. And that requires the authorization of Congress – unless you don’t believe in the Constitution. https://t.co/5jKuoPlKl9
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) April 14, 2018
This strike is unconstitutional and is a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Syria. The American people deserve a vote on whether we go to war with Syria, and potentially Russia and Iran.
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) April 14, 2018
While the members of Congress are rightfully disturbed by Trump’s unconstitutional seizure of war powers that they have not granted him, some members were also concerned about the scattershot nature of Trump’s foreign policy at a time when the State Department is leaderless as Mike Pompeo awaits confirmation hearings to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary and many crucial posts in the department remain unfilled.
“The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorization for Use of Military Force by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians,” Rep. Pelosi said in a statement.
Senator Kaine was equally scathing in his comments.
“President Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress’s approval is illegal and – absent a broader strategy – it’s reckless,” Kaine said. “Last week, President Trump was adamant that the U.S. was leaving Syria imminently. This week, he is opening a new military front.”
However justified retaliation against the immoral and illegal use of banned chemical agents may be, particularly when used against innocent civilians, the Constitution clearly lays out exactly how our nation should undertake the decision to use military force.
While other presidents dating back to Harry Truman have usurped congressional power when ordering military action in their role as Commander-in-Chief, Congress has often opted to pass broad bills authorizing the use of military force to handle conflicts like the Vietnam War and the War on Terror that stop short of formal declarations of war, yet still allow the president to commit forces to global conflicts.
The difference now, of course, is that we have never before had a president so inexperienced and unstable that allowing him free reign over our armed forces without the restraining influence of the government’s legislative body amounts to a Congressional dereliction of duty.
Congress needs to act now to pass legislation clearly outlining the limits on the President’s use of force in all of our current global conflicts before facts on the ground overtake their sluggish response.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.