More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter that began circulating among Congressmen on Tuesday, calling on Pres. Obama to seek Congressional authorization in the event of a military attack on Syria.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 107 Representatives have signed the letter, including 16 Democrats.
The letter was written by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who argued that the president is required to seek Congressional authorization as “prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973” before launching a military strike.
“Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,” Rigell wrote.
Rigell criticized the Obama administration’s rationale that it didn’t need Congressional authorization for the 2011 intervention in Libya because the limited nature of the U.S. military’s role didn’t constitute hostilities.
“We view the precedent this opinion sets, where ‘national interest’ is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional,” Rigell continued. “If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute ‘hostilities,’ what does?”
Rigell further called on Obama to reconvene Congress, which is currently in recess, in order to get authorization.
After the Bashar al-Assad regime allegedly used chemical weapons last week during fighting around Damascus, the U.S. and NATO governments are currently planning to intervene in the Syrian civil war, which has been going on for more than two years.
Americans, however, are not in favor of getting involved in the war, as a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
According to the poll, only nine percent of Americans favor intervention while 60 percent are opposed. Though support increases to 25 percent if chemical weapons were used, 46 percent would still oppose it.
There also remains skepticism about the allegations that Assad’s forces were behind the chemical weapons attack. While it’s generally accepted that such weapons were used, it remains unknown which side used them.
Videos have been uploaded to the Internet that depict members of the Free Syrian Army using chemical weapons. In one video, FSA members load a blue canister onto a rocket, and another shows off chemicals that were apparently stolen from the Syrian government.
A United Nations commission has stated that the evidence supports the notion that the Syrian rebels, and not the Assad regime, were behind the attack.
According to Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, there is “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that it was the rebels who used the weapons.
Assad has denied the allegations that he used the weapons, calling them “against logic.”