Sen. Rand Paul added his name Wednesday to the growing list of bipartisan lawmakers calling for a congressional debate before any military action is taken against Syria.
The Kentucky Republican said the decision should rest with Congress and not with the president of the United States, reports the Washington Post.
“We should ascertain who used the weapons and we should have an open debate in Congress over whether the situation warrants U.S. involvement,” Paul said in a statement released by his office. “The Constitution grants the power to declare war to Congress, not the President.”
Paul, a possible 2016 presidential candidate who has been a vocal opponent of U.S. military involvement in Syria, said taking sides in the conflict could backfire.
“The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States, and victory by either side will not necessarily bring in to power people friendly to the United States,” he said.
Opinion among the nation's lawmakers on whether Obama should act on Syria without congressional approval is divided, with some, including Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain and New York GOP Rep. Peter King, saying the president has the authority to act without seeking congressional approval.
But a growing number of lawmakers say acting with consent from Congress would a violation of the Constitution. So far, 116 House members, including at least 18 Democrats, have taken that position in a letter to the president drawn up by Republican Rep. Scott Rigell.
Rigell plans to deliver the letter to the White House on Thursday, according to The Hill.
The Virginia congressman told the newspaper that he's "encouraged" by the bipartisan support his letter received.
"It's a clear indication that this issue is not personal to the president, but rather represents common ground in Congress and a deep respect for the Constitution," he said.
The letter calls on Obama to bring Congress back into emergency session before it's summer break ends on Sept. 9. to consider the critical question of whether the U.S. should launch a military strike against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people.
President Obama said Wednesday that no decision has been made about what, if any, action to take. But a growing number of Democratic lawmakers who opposed the Iraq war during Republican George W. Bush's presidency are now urging their own party's president to stand down until Congress has a chance to weigh in, Politico reports.
“There is ferment out there — you just haven’t seen it yet,” said Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington. “If they fire rockets in there, you’ll see a lot of people saying this is an absolute mistake, they should not have done it, I do not support it. The storm will follow if [Obama] goes without having the backing of the Congress.”
California Rep. Barbara Lee is also circulating a letter among Democrats asking Obama to seek congressional approval for military strikes. So far, about dozen lawmakers have signed.
Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, meanwhile, is also calling on more of his Democratic to challenge the president on Syria, just as they did Bush on Iraq.
“I wish folks would be a little more vocal in asking for this,” he said, reports Politico.
“We have to challenge the administration. If we’re being true to who we are, it is about the constitutional responsibility of the [Congress] and it should not matter who is the occupant of the White House.”
Florida Rep. Alan Grayson acknowledged that it's difficult for Democrats to criticize a president from their own party. But, he added, "My feeling is that I never swore allegiance to the president. I swore to uphold the Constitution."
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