WASHINGTON — Four U.S. representatives from Colorado have urged President Obama to seek congressional authorization before ordering any military strikes on Syria.
They have not threatened retaliation if he fails to get approval from Congress. Yet the bipartisan group of lawmakers has staked out its turf in a duel between the legislative and executive branches.
“I think the President has an obligation to come before the Congress (to get authorization on Syria) for two reasons: for the Constitution and for the War Powers Resolution,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) said in an interview.
“The War Powers Act says he cannot act without the threat of an imminent attack on the homeland. Certainly in this case we are not at risk of an imminent attack at all,” Coffman added.
Like Coffman, Republican representatives Scott Tipton of Cortez and Cory Gardner of Yuma signed their names to a letter a GOP backbencher circulated this week. “We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria,” the signatories wrote to President Obama.
More than 115 members of the House of Representatives, a quarter of the lower chamber, have signed the letter from Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.).
Although most of the signatories are Republicans, more than a dozen Democrats have signed Rigell’s letter as well as a letter from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver put her name on Lee’s letter, which 52 other Democrats have signed so far.
“Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve of military force, even if the U.S. or its direct interests (such as embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with attack,” the lawmakers wrote Thursday to Obama.
The main difference between the two letters is the timing of a congressional response. Rigell’s letter urges Congress to return to Washington before its recess ends Sept. 9 if Obama intervenes in Syria militarily, while Lee’s does not mention when Congress should return if the President orders a strike.
Poll results on a U.S. military intervention are inconclusive. While surveys show that most Americans oppose a U.S. military intervention in the Middle Eastern country, an ABC poll last December found a majority of Americans would support a military strike if Syria used chemical weapons against its own civilians.
But pressing Obama to seek authorization from Congress before putting U.S. armed forces into hostilities is not a universal opinion in the Colorado congressional delegation.
According to Politico, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) declined to say if Obama should seek congressional approval.
“I would hope that members of Congress would take the time to hear the case of the president and and hear the other side before offering poorly informed opinions,” Polis reportedly said. His office did not return an email request for comment.