Senate-crafted Syria resolution riddled with loopholes for Obama

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
By Paul Martin

By Stephen Dinan and David Sherfinski
The Washington Times
September 4, 2013

Senators on Wednesday tried to write a tight resolution authorizing President Obama to strike Syria under very specific circumstances, but analysts and lawmakers said the language still has plenty of holes the White House could use to expand military action well beyond what Congress appears to intend.

“Wiggle room? Plenty of that,” said Louis Fisher, scholar in residence at the Constitution Project and former long-time expert for the Congressional Research Service on separation of powers issues.

Writing the actual language to empower and constrain Mr. Obama is proving to be a difficult task, with the key authors being pulled in various directions.

Some of the drafters’ colleagues want to give the president broad latitude for ongoing strikes that not only target Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons, but also aids the rebels seeking to overthrow him. Other lawmakers, though, want the most limited of action — a strike designed only to make sure the Assad regime can’t deploy its chemical weapons again.

The resolution drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez and Bob Corker, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, grants Mr. Obama power “to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria” — but only in relation to that nation’s weapons of mass destruction.

The resolution puts a 60-day limit on Mr. Obama’s ability to conduct strikes, while allowing him one 30-day extension of that authority.

“Our negotiations have led to a much narrower authorization that provides for the appropriate use of force while limiting the scope and duration of military action, prohibiting boots on the ground, and requiring the Obama administration to submit their broader plan for Syria,” Mr. Corker said in a statement late Tuesday.

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