Rand Paul Wants Vote on Presidential War Powers

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:45pm

Sen. Rand Paul wants to put his colleagues on the record on the question of the presidential authority to use force without the consent of Congress.

The Kentucky Republican has drafted an amendment to the Senate’s authorization for use of force against Syria, though timing for any amendment votes came into serious question late Monday after comments by President Barack Obama.

Nonetheless, the Paul amendment asks senators to answer a simple, but problematic question: Does Obama have authority to launch military strikes against Syria without Congress passing the resolution authorizing the use of force?

Such a vote could easily be viewed as a proxy vote on the extent to which presidents have inherent authority to use force as part of their powers and responsibilities as commander in chief, as well as a proxy vote on the War Powers Resolution. The amendment is just another sign of why Paul is one of the senators worth watching as the Syria debate unfolds.

Obama has repeatedly contended that he does have the authority to launch attacks on his own but told NBC News that he has not yet decided if he would do so absent Congress in this case.

Earlier in the day, Paul circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter outlining his opposition to intervention in Syria.

“The resolution to authorize force in Syria goes too far, and also not far enough. It does too much, but also too little,” Paul said in the letter. “This resolution does too much by involving us in a civil war in which there is no clearly defined American national security interest. Even the State Department argues that there is no military solution here that is good for the Syrian people, and the best path forward is a political solution. I will not vote to send my son, your son, or anyone’s daughter to fight for stalemate.”

The text of the amendment, which is to be inserted at an appropriate place in the resolution, is as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the authority to use force resides in Congress, and the President does not have authority to carry out the military action set forth in this resolution absent passage of the resolution.