On Saturday, President Barack Obama said that while he believes he has the authority to take military action in Syria, he is going to first seek congressional approval.
“After careful deliberation I have decided the United States should take military action against Syrian targets,” Obama said in remarks in the Rose Garden on Saturday afternoon. “I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons.”
“While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action,” he added, “I know the country will be stronger if we take this course [seeking congressional approval].”
For Obama to seek congressional approval on this matter, action will be delayed at least a week. The Congress isn’t scheduled to return until September 9th. Congress only has 9 legislative days scheduled in September.
The Senate, with no organized opposition, would take at least two to three days to secure approval. The House has its own procedural hurdles and could take a week to authorize action. This delay, which the White House is aware of, will increase uncertainty in the world for at least two weeks.
The situation is further complicated by Congress’ already packed schedule. After it returns from recess, Congress will have to quickly deal with a continuing resolution (CR), which authorizes government spending. Debate over a CR is already complicated as a large segment of the conservative movement and Tea Party have joined with Sens. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to defund Obamacare in the CR. If conservatives can force the House GOP leadership to pass a CR that does not fund Obamacare and hold strong on that, and Reid and Obama refuse to pass it, Reid’s and Obama’s actions could shut the government down.
There are 14 legislative days in October, and according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, by mid-October the nation’s debt will reach its congressionally set limit and need to be increased or the country could be forced to prioritize its spending to avoid default on its debt. Congress will need to use its September legislative days, and first few in October, to deal with the debt ceiling.
And now, factoring in Syria, that leaves no room for any more work from the House of Representatives on immigration in September or October. Those pushing for amnesty for America’s at least 11 million illegal aliens have been suggesting as much, with Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce saying now that an amnesty would be brought up in the next six months or so, not this year, something that is unlikely to happen in an election year.
Before the president added Syria to the congressional calendar, Politico’s Jake Sherman and Carrie Budoff Brown cited “multple senior House Republican leadership aides” who said the Fall’s “fiscal fights have lined up in a way that could delay immigration reform until 2014” and ultimately lead to “imperiling the effort’s prospects before the midterm elections.”
Meanwhile, immigration efforts aside, Congress will barely be able to realistically deal with many of the other issues it faces throughout the fall in a meaningful way as the president continues creating new crisis that need attending.