As Administration Considers Attack on Syria, Congressmen Garamendi & Jones Send Bipartisan Letter Urging President to Seek Congressional Authorization

Aug 28, 2013 Issues: Foreign Policy, Military and Veterans

WALNUT GROVE, CA – As Administration officials have suggested the possibility of almost immediate U.S. military action in Syria, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA3) and Walter Jones (R-NC3), both Members of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued a bipartisan call for the President to “obtain Congressional authorization before ordering the use of military force in Syria.” In a separate letter to House Leadership, they requested a full hearing before Congress on the potential risks and costs of such an action. Links to the letters are available here and here, and the full text of the letters is provided below.

“There is no greater decision for a country to make than the decision to go to war,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA3). “For that reason, the President has the responsibility to seek authorization from our nation’s elected leaders before initiating military action. Our leaders in Congress have a similar responsibility to the American people to demand this constitutionally-required authority and to evaluate any potential U.S. military intervention abroad. The past decade has amply demonstrated the folly of military commitments poorly conceived. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve better. The American people deserve a full explanation of the situation, the pending action, the strategic goal, and the potential outcomes.”

Garamendi authored a provision in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) making clear that the legislation did not provide an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for military action in Syria. This provision was incorporated into the NDAA, which was passed by the House of Representatives.

Garamendi continued, “Syria is embroiled in a complex civil war in a region that is plagued by instability. Our top military strategists and regional experts have warned of the potential unintended consequences and escalating costs of any U.S. military intervention. We need to consider the risks and dangers not only to our allies in the region, like Israel and Jordan, but also to the United States homeland before we militarily engage in another country’s civil war in the Middle East. I wholeheartedly agree with the Administration’s intention to protect Syrian civilians, but we must follow the ‘first do no harm’ rule. We need a full understanding of the situation before we move forward.”

“For too long, the legislature’s responsibility to authorize military force has been overlooked,” said Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC3).  “It is time that we uphold the Constitution, which makes it clear in Article 1, Section 8 that Congress alone holds the power to declare war.”

The letter to the President is linked here and the text follows immediately below:

Dear Mr. President,

We strongly urge you to consult with Congress and to obtain Congressional authorization before ordering the use of military force in Syria.

As stated in the War Powers Resolution of 1973, absent a Congressional declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force, the President as Commander-in-Chief has constitutional power to engage the US armed forces in hostilities only in the case of a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. As none of these criteria have been met, we believe it is Congress’s right and responsibility to be fully briefed on any potential plans to engage in military action in Syria, to assess whether such an intervention is in the national security interest of the United States and our allies, and to withhold or grant authorization for the use of military force based on this assessment. 

Respected leaders and strategists in our armed services, as well as experts on Syria and the region, have raised serious questions regarding the ultimate effectiveness and long-term impact of a US military intervention in the Syrian conflict. They have also highlighted the potential unintended and counterproductive consequences of a US strike that could negatively impact not only the Syrian people but also our allies in the region. Congress must carefully weigh these considerations before any military intervention is undertaken.

As we have learned from the past decade, at the initiation of hostilities, the costs of US military interventions abroad are often underestimated and the benefits overstated. We should not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sincerely,

John Garamendi
MEMBER of CONGRESS

Walter Jones
MEMBER of CONGRESS

The letter to Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi is linked here and the text follows immediately below:

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi:

We write to request a full hearing before Congress regarding the potential risks, costs, and national security imperatives of any US military intervention in Syria before the US engages in any kind of military action in the region. 

As stated in the War Powers Resolution of 1973, absent a Congressional declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force, the President as Commander-in-Chief has constitutional power to engage the US armed forces in hostilities only in the case of a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. As none of these criteria have been met, we believe it is Congress’s right and responsibility to be fully briefed on any potential plans to engage in military action in Syria and to assess whether or not such action would be in the national security interest of the United States and our allies. 

Respected leaders and strategists in our armed services, as well as experts on Syria and the region, have raised serious questions regarding the ultimate effectiveness and long-term impact of a US military intervention in the Syrian conflict. They have also highlighted the potential unintended and counterproductive consequences of a US strike that could negatively impact not only the Syrian people but also our allies in the region. At the very least, Congress must carefully weigh these considerations before any military intervention is undertaken.

As we have learned from the past decade, at the initiation of hostilities, the costs of US military interventions abroad are often underestimated and the benefits overstated. We should not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sincerely,

John Garamendi
MEMBER of CONGRESS

Walter Jones
MEMBER of CONGRESS