“The president’s current plan does not meet the threshold for an authorization of military force resolution against Syria,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, in a written statement Wednesday. “Any type of military action must have clear and coherent objectives.”
None of the delegation answered questions emailed to them by The Chronicle-Telegram. They included whether it would be constitutional for Obama to authorize bombing without congressional approval, as he did against Libya in 2011.
As a presidential candidate, Obama told the Boston Globe in 2008 that a president can’t use military force without congressional approval unless it involves stopping “an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” However, on Wednesday in Sweden, Obama — a former lawyer and constitutional scholar — said he was not “required” to get congressional approval.
“But I did not take this to Congress just because it’s an empty exercise,” Obama said. “It’s important to have Congress support on it.”
U.S. Rep Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, agree. Jordan was one of 116 congressman — 98 Republican, 18 Democrats — who last month signed a letter to the Democratic president urging him to get approval. The letter stated the Libya bombing — done by U.S. forces and NATO allies — was unconstitutional.
Kaptur told The Chronicle in a Sunday interview that it would be unconstitutional for Obama to use force in Syria without approval.
“Any military incursion, be it with weaponry or personnel, requires congressional action,” said Kaptur, whose district includes the city of Lorain. “I applaud the president that he has stated that he wants to consult with Congress.”
Kaptur, who voted against the Iraq War and funding the bombing of Libya, said she was undecided on Syria. Kaptur condemned the Aug. 21 mass killings outside of Damascus, which are suspected to be from sarin gas. But she said she hadn’t seen proof the gassings were done by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Kaptur voiced skepticism about bombing, saying it could cause blowback against the U.S. and ignite a regional conflagration.
“We can’t anticipate the repercussions of our doing something unilaterally here,” she said. “I haven’t seen the evidence that convinces me that this is something the United States should do on our own.”
Jordan, whose district includes Elyria and who voted against the Libya bombing, said in a written statement Tuesday that Obama would have to go a “long way” to convince him that bombing is a good idea.
The skepticism reflects widespread public sentiment.
A Pew Research poll found Americans opposed to war against Syria by a 48 percent to 29 percent margin. A Washington Post-ABC poll found opposition by a nearly 60 percent to almost 40 percent margin.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, is undecided on bombing. However, Portman, who voted for the Iraq War while a congressman, said in a written statement Wednesday that evidence that Assad used chemical weapons was “solid.”
However, there are questions about the evidence.
A Tuesday article by McClatchy Newspapers said the administration’s case was “riddled with inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence.” The article cited United Nations spokesman Farlan Haq, who disputed the administration’s contention that U.N. inspectors had arrived too late to find credible evidence. He said sarin can be detected months after its use.
The article also noted that Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday had not said how blood and hair samples that showed evidence of sarin were collected and had not explained how the U.S. determined 1,429 people were killed. The British have estimated at least 350 deaths while the French confirmed 281 deaths.
Despite questions about evidence, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, noted in a Wednesday email to a constituent that Syria is one of five countries out of 189 that have not signed the 1993 UN Chemical Weapons Convention ban.
Brown, who voted against the Iraq War while a congressman and is undecided on Syria, said he supported “diplomatic efforts” to oust Assad.
“The United States must remain engaged in this situation and not turn its back on those who seek peace and the rule of law,” Brown wrote. “President Obama should make his case to the American people and consult with Congress before taking any military action.”