Paul says that only Congress can declare war on Syria.
August 29, 2013
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stated today that the U.S. government should obey the Constitution to the letter and that only Congress, not the president, can declare war on Syria, which he does not believe is an immediate threat to U.S. national security.
“We have a separation of powers,” he said in a radio interview on the Mike Huckabee Show. “The Constitution says that when we go to war, Congress declares war and the president executes the war.”
“If the president is contemplating war or contemplating offensive action against Syria, there should be a joint session of Congress and he should try and convince us for the need for it.”
Show host Mike Huckabee said that the Constitutional issue Paul raised is “the critical one” because the War Powers Act of 1973 clarified that unless the U.S. is already under attack or under eminent danger of a pending attack, the president has to have Congressional approval in order to commit U.S. armed forces into conflict.
“Nobody, nobody can claim that Syria is about to drop one [a bomb] on the U.S.,” Huckabee said.
“The interesting thing about it is that when President Obama was a Senator in 2007, he said exactly that no president should unilaterally go to war without the authority of Congress,” Paul responded.
He was referring to then-Senator Obama’s interview with the Boston Globe in late 2007.
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama said.
The then-Senator from Illinois further emphasized that the president can only act unilaterally in “instances of self-defense.”
Paul pointed out that President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, did come to Congress about taking military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which came to a vote.
“There needs to be a big debate particularly because it’s so muddled in Syria that we may well be allies with al-Qaeda if we go in,” he said.
Huckabee mentioned that al-Qaeda has apparently sensed an opportunity in Syria to join the movement against the current Syrian government.
“I’m a little surprised that John McCain continues to act as if everything is fine and these are all good people we can trust,” he said.
Huckabee continued saying that McCain seems to be the only person he knows of with that point of view.
“No one I have talked to in our military, none of the intelligence officers seem to believe that there is a pure group that’s coalesced with the rebels right now,” he said. “If we go take on Syria, we might be emboldening Iran and at the same time empowering al-Qaeda.”
“The interesting thing is that I believe we need leadership in our country that has a healthy reluctance to war,” Paul responded. “We should understand and obey the separations of powers and Congress should be the one making this decision.”
Paul made reference to a James Madison statement on war in the Federalist papers.
“He [Madison] said the executive branch is the one most likely to go to war, therefore we vested the power to declare war with Congress,” he said. “The Constitution separated that power precisely to slow things down and have a debate.”
Paul said that the president absolutely has the authority for military response under a current or eminent attack, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, supporters for the war in Syria are suggesting that the country is “somehow a threat to our national security.”
“That needs to be debated out in the open because to my knowledge there is no evidence that Syria is any threat to any U.S. personnel abroad or anywhere,” Paul said. “I’ve spoken out publicly that there needs to be a joint session of Congress before any military action is taken.”
“There needs to be a vote in Congress.”
Currently a letter is circulating around the U.S. House stating that the president has a “moral and constitutional obligation” to go to Congress before proceeding with a war. So far, it has been signed by 132 representatives, including 20 Democrats.
This growing movement, complimented by Paul, has been led by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.)
Prior to his interview with Sen. Paul, Huckabee spoke to Rigell about the letter.
“This is not a partisan issue and we’ve never approached it that way,” Rigell said. “It is truly a constitutional issue.”