Past Statements on War Powers Haunt Obama and Biden

Image: Past Statements on War Powers Haunt Obama and Biden

Thursday, 29 Aug 2013 06:50 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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President Barack Obama said in 2008 that he believed the president does not have the power to launch a military attack unilaterally.

Joe Biden went one step further, threatening to impeach President George W. Bush if he bombed Iran without approval from Congress.

But now their words could be coming back to haunt both the president and vice president as they consider their next move against Syria, with the White House giving the clear signal that air strikes could be launched this week, while Congress is in the middle of its recess.

Speaker John Boehner — the most senior man on Capitol Hill — has not even heard from Obama about the plans, he said on Monday.

"The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations," Boehner said.

"One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not taken place, but it is an essential part of the process. And meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken."

And both Obama and Biden apparently agreed with Boehner's position — at least before they were elected.

"I drafted an outline of what I think the constitutional limits have on the president in over the war clause," Biden, then a senator from Delaware, said during a campaign speech in 2007, BuzzFeed reports

"I want to make it clear and I made it clear to the president, if he takes this nation to war in Iran, without congressional approval — I will make it my business to impeach him."

As for Obama, he also spoke up during the campaign that took him to the White House.

"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," he told the Boston Globe in a question and answer session in 2007.

He said that presidents can act first and advise and consent later, adding, "History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

Obama is now considering a military strike on Syria following the Assad regime's use of deadly chemical weapons that killed hundreds in the suburbs of Damascus last week.

Biden told the American Legion National convention in Houston on Tuesday there was "no doubt" the Assad regime used chemical weapons and vowed the Syrian leader would be "held accountable."

Congressional Republicans are turning up the heat in a bid to have some say.

So far, 82 have signed a letter drafted by Virginia Republican Rep. Scott Rigell urging Obama call Congress back into session before taking any action.

"Congress is not a potted plant in this process, and President Obama should call us back into emergency session before authorizing the use of any military force," Rigell said in a statement.

"We stand ready to share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement."

Obama has flexed U.S. military power before without consulting Congress.

In 2011, he ordered military strikes against Libya, which triggered the ouster of strongman Muammar Gadhafi.

In a letter to Congress at the time Obama argued the intervention was justified.

"The growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States," he wrote.

Time reports
that while officials pointed to the possibility of an imminent massacre of rebel forces, they found no immediate threat to national security.

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