“Today the President advised me that he will seek an authorization for the use of force from the Congress prior to initiating any combat operations against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons. The President’s role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
“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. In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people,” the House Republican leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., wrote in a joint statement.
“President Obama is right that the debate and authorization by Congress for action will make our country and the response in Syria stronger,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
“The president made a strong case today, and wisely chose to seek congressional support, even though he believes he is not required by law to do so,” Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “A congressional vote to authorize the use of force would strengthen the president’s decision to take military action. It is important that the president is seeking support and participation from other countries, including Arab countries.”
“I will work with the Senate leadership in support of an Authorization for Use of Military Force as expeditiously as possible,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
One of the administration’s most outspoken critics, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lauded the president’s call, saying it was “the way it’s supposed to work.”
“The constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and I am very, very glad that the president listened to bipartisan calls to come before Congress and to come before the American people and make the case not based on international norms, not based on international law, but based on the only proper criteria for potential military action, which is the vital national security interest of the United States of America,” Cruz said at an annual meeting for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Orlando, Fla. “On Syria, the president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to listen to the people.”
While many members of Congress praised the president’s decision, at least one lawmaker said the president does not even need to consult Congress about a potential strike.
“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria,” Rep. Pete King, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism, said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own red line.”
Congress is scheduled to return on Sept. 9, and the president did not indicate whether he would call Congress back early from recess, a move some lawmakers are still calling for.
“If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the president is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said.
“Now that the President has called for a vote on a new authorization to use force, it is all the more essential that we be called back into session immediately,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement. “This is not a judgment to be made by the Congress in haste, and consultation with the Administration needs to intensify now.”
Senate Democrats and Republicans were scheduled to receive separate unclassified briefings this afternoon by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the White House said.
On Sunday, the White House has said it will provide an in-person classified briefing for any interested members of the House and Senate.