Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is reportedly considering bringing the U.S. Senate back to Washington in response to President Barack Obama’s White House Rose Garden remarks regarding Syria on Saturday, but House Speaker John Boehner is having none of it.
Boehner and the rest of the House GOP leadership issued a statement on Saturday saying the House will debate the Syria issue on Sept. 9 when it returns from recess. “Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress,” Boehner and House GOP leadership said.
“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,” the statement said. “This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”
Boehner and his team argued Obama needs to make the case for going into Syria to take military action, something the president has not yet done. Neither side in Syria is blameless; Bashar Al-Assad is a brutal dictator who allegedly recently used chemical weapons on his own people, while the Syrian opposition is increasingly being controlled by Islamists with ties to Al Qaeda. A U.S. military strike against Assad’s regime would essentially mean the Obama administration and United States government was actually helping Al Qaeda.
A House GOP aide told The Hill that Obama needs to win this debate before any military action against Syria is authorized. “This vote is going to depend on the president making the case to Congress – and, more importantly, the American people,” the aide said. “We are also going to need complete, serious answers to the questions the Speaker and other have asked.”
On the other hand, CNN reports that Reid is considering bringing the Senate back early. “Just reported w @wolfblitzer senator Reid is considering bringing senate back before sept 9,” CNN’s Dana Bash Tweeted on Saturday.
If Obama wants to take action against Syria immediately and is going to get congressional approval for any action he takes, he does not need Boehner to call the House back early. The U.S. Constitution provides that the President of the United States could call the U.S. Congress in for a special session in times of national need. Article II, Section III of the U.S. Constitution reads:
He [the president] shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.
U.S. presidents have used this power 27 times in U.S. history, and the most recent use was by Harry Truman in 1948.
Even though Obama has that authority, he could still have used the bully pulpit of the White House–through his Rose Garden speech or some other means–to politically pressure Congress to come back early. He has not done that, and did not do that on Saturday when presented with the opportunity.
Instead, he said any military action against Syria would not be urgent–and then promptly joined his Vice President Joe Biden on the links for a round of golf. “Our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “It will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now, and I am prepared to give that order.”
Despite the fact that Boehner’s statement, some members of the GOP establishment are calling on Congress to reconvene now to debate this issue. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement on Saturday afternoon urging Congress to reconvene now. “I believe Congress should return to Washington immediately and begin to debate this issue,” Rubio said.