Everyone is in agreement that Assad’s use of Sarin gas was a deplorable thing to do. What they can’t agree on is whether or not Trump had the authority to initiate such action. A number of Republicans have voiced their opinion in regard to the air strikes Trump ordered on Thursday night; some heaping praise on him while others admonish him for lacking the authority.
What does the Constitution say?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 states that Congress shall have power:
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
Article II, Section 2, states the President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution. The War Powers Resolution requires that the President communicate to Congress the committal of troops within 48 hours. Further, the statute requires the President to remove all troops after 60 days if Congress has not granted an extension. Congress intended to halt the erosion of Congress’s ability to participate in war-making decisions.
Senator Rand Paul said,
“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.
Make no mistake, bombing Assad means the United States is fighting on the same side as ISIS and other radical Islamists in Syria. This is a dangerous and morally wrong policy.
But no matter your view of the merits of engaging in Syria, every member of Congress should stand up today and reclaim our Constitutional authority over war.”
(Senator Paul had a lot more to say about this, which can be read here.)
House Speaker Paul Ryan stated-
“Earlier this week the Assad regime murdered dozens of innocent men, women, and children in a barbaric chemical weapons attack. Tonight the United States responded. This action was appropriate and just. These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on American inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people.”
The Bobblehead twins, John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in their statement,
“We salute the skill and professionalism of the U.S. Armed Forces who carried out tonight’s strikes in Syria. Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs. ‘Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people.”
Senator Ted Cruz said,
“Today, after eight years of Obama foreign policy failures, Syria is a humanitarian disaster. Bashar al-Assad is a monster, a puppet of Russia and Iran, and he has once again used chemical weapons against his own citizens, murdering innocent men, women, and children.
Our prayers are with Assad’s victims, and with the victims of the ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists ripping Syria apart. And, as always, our support and prayers are with the brave Americans in uniform who carried out the military strike tonight.
Any military action in Syria must be justified as protecting the vital national security interests of America – including decisive action to prevent chemical weapons from falling into the hands of radical Islamic terrorists – and I look forward to our Commander-in-Chief making the case to Congress and the American people how we should do so in the days ahead.”
Today, Trump sent the following letter to Paul Ryan, which I’ve copied from Greta Van Susteren’s Facebook page:
April 8, 2017
Dear Mr. Speaker:
At approximately 8:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 6, 2017, at my direction, United States military forces in the Mediterranean Sea, operating beyond the territorial sea of any state, struck the Shayrat military airfield in Syria. United States intelligence indicates that Syrian military forces operating from this airfield were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in southern Idlib Province, Syria, that occurred on April 4. I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe.
I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
Donald J. Trump
Does Trump’s letter to Paul Ryan satisfy the 48 hour requirement in the War Powers Resolution or did he exceed his authority by not seeking permission before he ordered the strike as Rand Paul seems to think?