The second-ranking House Democrat says President Barack Obama has the authority to use military force against Syria without returning to Congress for authorization should diplomacy fail to compel Syria to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland says neither he nor House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “believe the president is required to come to Congress in this instance, and could act on his own,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt”’ airing this weekend.
Separately, Hoyer, said Republican disarray in the House over what strategy to pursue in a looming battle with Obama over funding the federal government and raising the nation’s borrowing limit makes a government shutdown at the end of the month more likely.
On Syria, Hoyer said there’s only a brief window for Russia to prove that its bid to require Syria to give up its chemical arms stockpile to avert a U.S. military strike is “real” — “certainly not longer than weeks.”If it fails, Hoyer added, Obama’s hand would be strengthened in taking military action if Congress explicitly empowered him to do so.“If we passed a resolution, he’d have a stronger hand,” Hoyer said. “But having said that, neither the Russians nor the
Syrians ought to conclude that the president is without authority to act.”The attempt at a diplomatic solution may also help Obama influeence lawmakers to support a military strike, Hoyer said.“People would say, ‘Well, he went the extra mile, he reached out, he took the diplomatic course that people had been
urging him to take — and it didn’t work,’” Hoyer said. “And therefore under those circumstances, the only option available to us to preclude the further use of chemical weapons and to try to deter and degrade Syria’s ability to use them is to act.’”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing military force against Syria, and the Senate was prepared to vote this week. The resolution appeared to face growing House opposition. Then, when the prospect of a negotiated settlement arose, Obama said in a national televised address that he was asking Congress to delay voting.
On fiscal issues, Hoyer said Democrats will never agree to Republicans’ bid to delay funding for the 2010 health-care law in exchange for funding the government, calling it a “gambit” the opposing party could use to ensure the measure is never carried out.“We’re not going to be bludgeoned and blackmailed into adopting something with respect to the health-care bill that the voters rejected,” he said. “As long as ‘shut down the government’ is their bludgeon, is their threat, is their hostage, that’s not a negotiable issue.”