President Donald Trump said he based his decision to bomb Syria on his emotional response to reports that the embattled Assad regime launched poison gas attacks against its own people. As well-intentioned as Trump’s “for the children” attack may have been, it was still unconstitutional.
Legislation introduced Tuesday by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) would prevent the White House from engaging in further military intervention to address humanitarian concerns without first gaining congressional approval.
The lawmakers’ Military Humanitarian Operations Act would require a congressional vote to occur before the U.S. takes any military action to address a humanitarian crisis when retaliation is likely.
This, the lawmakers contend, is the only way for the U.S. to properly understand the potential unintentional consequences and entanglements that could result from a strike like the recent attack on Syria.
“President Trump and several senior administration officials have indicated that the United States may be prompted to act again in retaliation to other attacks against civilians or for broader humanitarian purposes,” Lee said. “We are all angered by the pictures and stories from Syria in recent years, and the desire to retaliate for these unfathomable attacks is understandable. However, over the past 200 years, the separate and distinct roles of the executive and the legislative branches to declare war, launch military attacks, and defend against or retaliate for an attack against the United States have become blurred.”
Paul has similarly denounced Trump’s unilateral military action, noting that it doesn’t square with the president’s promise to focus on U.S. problems first.
“Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different,” Paul wrote in an opinion piece for Fox.
The senator added: “There is no doubt Assad is a brutal dictator. But if we seek to remove him, we must ask what comes next. Assad is fighting radical Islamic rebels, including large parts of ISIS. Who would take over Syria if Assad is deposed? Experience in Libya tells us chaos could reign, and radical Islamists could control large parts of the country.”
The lawmaker also noted that bombing the Assad regime aligns the U.S.’s actions with the preferred outcomes of ISIS fighters in the region.
Meanwhile, hawks like Arizona Sen. John McCain have applauded Trump’s decision to attack, saying that his actions were justified by the War Powers Resolution.
That resolution, Paul noted, only gives the president the power to launch a military strike without congressional approval when there’s been “a declaration of war, a specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by an attack on the United States.”
That’s it. Absent those criteria, the president has no authority to act without congressional authorization. Congress must stand up and assert its authority here and now,” the Kentucky senator said.
For his efforts to maintain governmental balance of power, Paul has been attack Trump’s new establishment admirers.
Asked about Paul’s calls for future congressional approval for military action, McCain expressed outright disinterest in even hearing his colleague’s concerns.
“I don’t really react to Sen. Paul,” McCain told CNN
“We’re just too different and he doesn’t have any real influence in the United States Senate,” he added. “I don’t pay any attention frankly to what Sen. Paul says.”
Asked to explain why he disagrees with Paul’s assertion that Americans’ elected officials should have a say in whether the nation goes to war, McCain responded simply: “Because he’s wrong.”
It’s an odd thing to say, considering how much McCain and his hawkish allies have gotten wrong in recent years.
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