August 01, 2013

Udall Stands up for American Concerns on Syria Involvement

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall today successfully included an amendment to the Senate FY 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would prevent the use of defense funds for any military action in Syria in violation of the War Powers Act. The amendment was approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee by a bipartisan vote of 20-10. Majorities of both Democratic and Republican members of the Appropriations Committee supported the amendment. The DOD appropriations bill, as amended, now must be considered by the full Senate.

"We all agree that the atrocities in Syria are appalling, and that the United States should do all it can to help with humanitarian needs and resolve the conflict," Udall said. "But we must remember that the Constitution and the War Powers Act require congressional authority to engage in the use of prolonged military force. The president's unilateral decision to send arms to Syrian rebels is troubling to the vast majority of American people, but we must be sure to exercise our congressional authority before U.S. involvement is escalated further. This amendment sends a much-needed message: Congress must be consulted before troops are entered into hostilities in Syria, and the president must abide by the War Powers Act."

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the sole power to declare war. Furthermore, the War Powers Act governs the consultation requirements before the armed forces of the United States can be introduced into foreign hostilities. Importantly it requires the president to terminate the use of U.S. armed forces after 60 days unless Congress has taken action to authorize the hostilities, extend the 60 day period, or is unable to meet as a result of an armed attack on the United States. The amendment is significant because most-but not all-U.S. military involvement has been specifically authorized by Congress, and this provision reasserts Congress' constitutional role and responsibility.

The text of the amendment follows:

SEC. l. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used with respect to Syria in contravention of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.), including for the introduction of United States armed or military forces into hostilities in Syria, into situations in Syria where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, or into Syrian territory, airspace, or waters while equipped for combat, in contravention of the Congressional consultation and reporting requirements of sections 3 and 4 of that law (50 U.S.C. 1542 and 1543).