War Powers

08.31.13

Obama Might Still Attack Syria if Congress Votes No

President Obama might strike the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad even if Congress fails to authorize the use of military force, administration officials told The Daily Beast Saturday. Then again, he might not.

Following Obama’s Saturday address, during which he announced he had decided the United States “should” take military action in Syria and also decided to seek Congressional approval, administration officials clarified to The Daily Beast that they can’t rule out the president might act even if Congress fails to authorize the action of using American military force in Syria. Officials declined to speculate whether Congress would vote to authorize military action or not when it comes back to Washington.

In his prepared statement, Obama didn’t say explicitly whether Congressional approval or disapproval would be a determining factor if and when he does decide to strike Syria. In fact, he asserted that he believed he had the constitutional authority to take the action without such approval.

But Obama also said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had told him "our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I'm prepared to give that order."

Obama did say he was confident in moving forward without United Nations approval and without a resolution from the U.N. Security Council, which he called “completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.” He asserted that he was entitled to act without Congress in Syria, but didn’t say whether or not he would do that.

“While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective,” he said.

The Republican leadership Saturday issued a joint statement saying the House would consider the president's war measure on the week of September 9.

“Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress. We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised," said the statement from House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The president’s strategy for gaining support for military action stands in contrast to his strategy in 2011, when he sought U.N. Security Council authorization for military action in Libya but did not seek prior approval of Congress.

Following his remarks, Obama went to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to play golf with Vice President Joe Biden, Marvin Nicholson and Walter Nicholson.

Eli Lake contributed reporting to this article