Democrats muzzle anti-war Rand Paul
Senator Paul's amendment citing then-candidate Obama's words that the president has no authority to unilaterally authorize a military attack without an imminent threat to the US, was squelched by Foreign Relations chairman Menendez.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee spent most of September 4 in a closed door debate over a resolution to go forward with military action against Syria, whose government states accused of targeting its own people with toxic chemical weapons. The final tally was 10 to 7, with one senator voting present. The White House commended the senators for "moving swiftly and for working across party lines on behalf of our national security." Senator Robert Menendez (D) and Robert Corker (R) drafted the resolution. Two Democrats voted 'no', a third voted 'present' and five Republicans voted against it, including Sen. Rand Paul (KY).
The committee voted to authorize President Obama to use limited force against Syria, after adopting amendments from Sen. McCain designed to urge the president "change the military equation on the battlefield." Obama has promised a “narrow” and “limited” military action, while Secretary of State John Kerry would not rule out the possibility of putting troops on the ground. Kerry, a former senator and anti-war activist, appealed to the senators’ humanity in an effort to past the vote.
The Senate resolution would limit hostilities to within Syria and for a period of 60 or 90 days. It also prohibited U.S. troops on Syrian soil. McCain's proposal urged that the goal should be "a negotiated settlement that ends the conflict and leads to a democratic government in Syria."
Those senators voting in favor of the resolution are: Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) (by proxy because of absence due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Ranking minority member Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), also voted in favor of the resolution.
Those voting no are Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Voting present was Sen. Edward J. (D-MA).
Of these senators, six on the committee are facing reelection in 2014: Shaheen, Coons, Durbin, Udall, Markey and Risch — face the voters next year. Shaheen, Coons and Durbin voted yes. Udall and Risch voted no, while Markey voted present.
Among those senators who are considered possible 2016 presidential candidates: Rubio and Paul are considered leading GOP contenders. Both of them voted against the resolution.
Senator Paul, a leading critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, had earlier attempted to introduce an amendment declaring that Obama would be violating the Constitution if he were to attack Syrian targets without clear authorization from Congress. However, Democrat Menendez refused to offer the GOP Senator's proposal for a vote, which used Obama's own words against him.
Paul said Senate Democrats would need a filibuster-proof majority of at least 60 'yes' votes in order to close debate on a Syrian use-of-force resolution and move it to a vote. “You shouldn’t get it both ways' as the U.S. commander-in-chief,” said Paul. “You shouldn’t be allowed to say "I'm going to abide by the authority of the Congress when I win, but when I lose I'm not."
“This is a great issue in a perfect time to talk about it.” Brushing aside criticism on his stand, Paul said that he had received “standing ovations” in his home state when he told Kentuckians of his opposition to U.S. retaliation. Paul may still filibuster the final Senate use-of-force resolution. A vote in the full Senate is not expected until next week.
Before gaining the White House in 2008, Obama told the Boston Globe that “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.” That statement, plus his denial of having set down a “red line” as a U.S. response to Syrian aggression, has called his credibility into question. Obama, speaking in a news conference on September 4 in Sweden, said that it is the credibility of Congress that is in question.
That December 20, 2007 statement attracted new attention after Obama made the unusual move Saturday of asking for Congress' approval before he attacked Bashar al-Assad's regime.
PAUL'S WAR POWERS AMENDMENT
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Senator Barack Obama stated correctly to the Boston Globe in 2007 that '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.'
(2) Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution of the United States provides Congress, not the President, the power to issue a declaration of war.
It is the sense of Congress that if this authorization fails to pass Congress, the President would be in violation of the Constitution if he were to use military force against the Government of Syria.
Obama steams toward Syria
Obama reminded lawmakers and the world on September 4 that he does not require Congressional support for an attack on Syria. Rand, for his part, said that “nobody really doubts that there was a chemical attack” against civilians in Syria. He warned that a military incursion by the U.S. could destabilize the region and lead to attacks on Israel.
On the same day, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) asked Secretary Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a House hearing to comment on what she called “a rumor” that the House would not hold any votes on the use of force in Syria. Kerry dismissed the rumor.
Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, who specializes in national security issues, wrote on August 28 that 'neither U.S. persons nor property are at stake, and no plausible self-defense rationale exists' for a unilateral attack launched from the Oval Office."
Goldsmith, who worked in the Bush Administration, noted that 'U.S. intervention in Syria portends many foreseeably bad consequences, and ... there is so little support in the nation for this intervention.”
Some polls show that a great majority of Americans oppose the extension of American military power into Syria.
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