Saturday, August 31, 2013

But can Congress get its act together?

On Syria, not likely. They sure haven't been able to come together on much else this year.

With few exceptions since 1973, Congress has not really accepted its own responsibilities under the War Powers Act. Lawmakers, especially from the President’s opposition party, have pounded the table demanding a congressional role, but rarely have they actually tried to pass legislation that would support, oppose, or condition the use of force. Unless and until they actually negotiate and pass something, they should shut up about presidential abuses of the war power.

Thus far, the only bill that has even passed a committee is a Senate measure, S. 960,  that calls for assistance and training, including defense articles, to elements of the Syrian opposition that are " vetted" as not being connected to identified terrorist groups and are "committed to rejecting terrorism and extremist ideologies." [Maybe they'll hire the same firm that did the security clearance for Edward Snowden.]

The most popular pro-Syrian aid bill in the House hasn't been approved by any of the three committees it was referred to months ago.

Congress wants to have it both ways: look tough but avoid blame if things go sour. Still, it would be good for the country if lawmakers actually had to decide whether they supported or opposed retaliatory action in response to the evident Syrian use of chemical weapons, or whether they could agree on a policy in law that set some conditions or restrictions on the President.

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