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Democrats renew push for war powers overhaul after Biden’s Syria strike

“The American people deserve to hear the Administration’s rationale for these strikes and its legal justification for acting without coming to Congress,” said Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.

“Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” he added. “Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”

Murphy, a Foreign Relations Committee member, added in a statement that “retaliatory strikes, not necessary to prevent an imminent threat, must fall within the definition of an existing congressional authorization of military force.”

“Congress should hold this administration to the same standard it did prior administrations, and require clear legal justifications for military action, especially inside theaters like Syria, where Congress has not explicitly authorized any American military action,” Murphy said.

Kaine and Murphy have long pushed to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and the 2002 Iraq War authorization and institute new guidelines for Congress to approve military action.

Progressive Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only lawmaker to vote against the 2001 authorization in the days following 9/11, said the Syria strike highlights the need to remove old war powers from the books and return to nuclear talks with Iran.

“The strike in Syria underscores the urgent need to get back to the table with Iran and revive the JCPOA,” Lee said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. “It also underscores the urgent need to repeal the blank check for endless wars — the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs — which are now almost 20 years old.”

“Let’s be clear: this is not about this president or any other president, it is about the need to restore the balance of power with Congress in the use of military force,” Lee said.

Lee, who chairs the House panel that controls funding for the State Department and foreign aid programs, is leading an effort with other senior House Democrats to convince Biden to team with Congress to kill the 2002 Iraq authorization and craft a suitable replacement for the 2001 authorization, which underpins numerous U.S. counterterrorism operations worldwide.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive member of the House Armed Services Committee, slammed Biden following the attack. Khanna, who pushed legislation to curtail Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, argued there was “absolutely no justification” for the Syria strike.

“This makes President Biden the seventh consecutive U.S. president to order strikes in the Middle East,” Khanna lamented.

“We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate. The President should not be taking these actions without seeking explicit authorization instead of relying on broad, outdated [AUMFs],” Khanna said. “I spoke against endless war with Trump, and I will speak out against it when we have a Democratic President.”

The Pentagon briefed congressional leadership on Thursday night ahead of the attack, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said, and administration officials on Friday continued briefing lawmakers and congressional staff.

The administration will provide a full classified briefing to lawmakers early next week, though it could come “sooner if Congress wants it,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson pointed to the “inherent self-defense powers enshrined in our Constitution and the UN Charter,” citing Biden’s authority to defend the U.S. under Article II of the Constitution as well as Article 51 of the UN Charter.

“We had a rigorous process to include legal review of the strikes conducted,” the NSC spokesperson said. “The strikes were necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.”

Thursday’s airstrike in Syria came in response to three rocket attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq in the span of a week. The new U.S. strike targeted facilities in eastern Syria used by…

Read More: Democrats renew push for war powers overhaul after Biden’s Syria strike

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