White House “Use of force” authorization for Syria

As President Obama announced on Saturday that he would seek a vote in the Congress before committing the United States to any military action against Syria for that country’s use of chemical weapons, the White House sent lawmakers a proposed “use of force” resolution, which would authorize such military action.

“So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security,” the President said to reporters in the Rose Garden. 

“I am looking forward to the debate.  And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment,” Mr. Obama added.  

Here is the text of the resolution sent to the Congress by the White House:

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;

Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;

Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;

Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and

Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve. –

(a) Authorization.— The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to—(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or (2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements.—

(1) Specific Statutory Authorization – Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements. – Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be Senate hearings next week (after Labor Day), as he aims to hold a vote the week of September 9, when the Congress returns from an extended summer break.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner said he would follow the same timeline.

“In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th,” said a written statement from the Speaker.  “This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”

Some lawmakers in both parties argued that debate and vote should occur immediately, not in another 10-14 days.

“The president should have demanded Congress return immediately and debate this most serious issue,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who said in a statement that he believes “the evidence is clear that the president’s red-line was crossed long ago, and the United States must respond.”

Others don’t want to wait for the Congress.

“I don’t believe the President needs Congressional approval to conduct limited strikes in Syria,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), “however I respect his decision to seek authorization.”

“I support the president’s decision,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).   “But as far as I’m concerned, we should strike in Syria today.  The use of chemical weapons was inhumane, and those responsible should be forced to suffer the consequences.”

“I agree with the decision to seek Congressional approval before taking military action in Syria,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).  “And I believe Congress should return to Washington immediately and begin to debate this issue.”