U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (Virginia) intends on making a speech on Tuesday regarding the War Powers Resolution at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. By Tuesday, however, the U.S. could already be conducting offensive military actions in the civil-war torn country of Syria without the approval of the U.S. Congress.
On this point, the American people have clearly spoken, according to a recent NBC poll. Close to 80 percent of Americans believe that President Barack Obama should seek and receive approval from the U.S. Congress before military actions are taken in Syria.
The fact that a poll was carried out on whether or not the president should seek congressional approval for military actions abroad is the main impetus behind Sen. Kaine’s focus on the War Powers Resolution. In July of this year, Sen. Kaine publicly stated his intentions to reform the 1973 Resolution that includes a clear articulation of the consultative procedures that the U.S. Congress and the president shall take regarding the details of military action.
More recently, Sen. Kaine has called on President Obama to consult with the U.S. Congress before taking military action in Syria. So far, President Obama’s willingness to do so has appeared reluctant, at best.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with U.S. military action in Syria, it is clear that the 1973 War Powers Resolution has become as ineffective at checking the war fighting powers of the president as federal law prohibiting the use of marijuana. And in light of the recent developments in Syria and the Obama administration’s response to these developments, the War Powers Resolution is due for a much needed makeover.
The argument against President Obama’s continued disregard of congressional approval for military actions abroad is simple and straight-forward: in our country, no single individual or office should have the ability to send thousands of troops into combat or spend upwards of billions of dollars on a war effort that has not been authorized by the congress.
While the Obama administration may have the best of intentions in pursuing military action in Syria, it is beside the basic point that military action is not under the control of one branch of government in non-emergency situations such as the conflict in Syria (the bombing at Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the September 11 terrorist attacks could be considered examples of emergency situations).
I hope Sen. Kaine will continue to press this president, and presidents to come, to abide by the War Powers Resolution in every way that is practical. It is my hope that the president will reaffirm his respect for the balance of powers and congressional authority in wartime actions by seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress before pursuing military action in Syria.