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Rigell Wants ‘Emergency Session’ for Syria (Updated)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:43 p.m. | Rep. Scott Rigell didn’t want Congress to leave for August recess in the first place — and now, before President Barack Obama authorizes any military force in Syria, he wants Congress to come back.

As the prospect of U.S. military intervention in Syria intensifies, the Virginia Republican issued a press release Monday calling on Obama to consult with Congress before any engagement in Syria.

“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’s press release said. “We stand ready to share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement.”

Later Monday, Rigell told CQ Roll Call that as the president considers military options in Syria, his actions “must include proactive consultation with Congress and explicit, definitive authorization” if he wants to take military action in the embattled country.

Calling U.S. intervention a “humanitarian objective,” Rigell said the War Powers Resolution did not apply to the situation in Syria because it did not constitute a “national emergency.” Therefore, if the president wants to intervene in Syria, “then, indeed, prior to — prior to! — not after the fact, he needs to call Congress into session.”

As outlined in the War Powers Resolution, the president can only commit U.S. troops to a foreign country under three circumstances: after a congressional declaration of war, by an existing congressional statute or resolution granting specific authorization, or in a national emergency caused by a foreign attack on the United States.

“We’re not defending America in the definition that would be covered under one of the three provisions,” Rigell said.

But Rigell, who didn’t want Congress to leave for August in the first place so that the House could work on appropriations bills, stopped short of saying Congress should come back to discuss Syria regardless of whether the president intends to act.

“The pivot point for me here is if the president, in his wisdom and judgment, if he says we want to move forward, then he should pull us back,” said Rigell, who also criticized Obama’s intervention in Libya without a vote of Congress.

“I don’t care whether people are on vacation, I don’t care where they are; it doesn’t matter,” Rigell said. “With the kind of involvement being contemplated here, this is a most serious matter.”

calling on the president to consult with Congress.

But Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday afternoon that “the administration is actively consulting with members of Congress.”

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