Rand Paul resolution: Obama violates the Constitution if he attacks Syria without Congress's approval

I don’t know if there’s a way for him to force Reid to bring this to the floor, but if not, Boehner must — must — include it in the House package.

It’s three paragraphs long so go ahead and read it in full, but this part deserves spotlighting:


Using his own words against him is zestily delicious, but c’mon — you don’t think a gauzy concept like “imminence” is going to stop him, do you? According to O’s drone policy, a bad guy in Al Qaeda is always an “imminent” threat to the U.S. no matter where he is or what he’s doing. He’ll make the same argument about Assad: “Anyone crazy enough to use poison gas is, by definition, an imminent threat.” There will, needless to say, be lots of Clintonian parsing later by Democrats even if something like this passes. Isn’t there always?

But never mind that. Until this morning, I thought the whole point of O going to Congress was that he did want them to have veto power over a Syria strike. That’s his escape hatch from the “red line” nonsense. If they approve an attack, then this is no longer exclusively Obama’s folly. If they reject it, then he gets to drop the Syria hot potato on grounds that his hands are tied and whatever parade of horribles follows in Syria is Congress’s fault. To ask them for authorization, have it denied, and attack anyway would be inexplicable; it would provoke a constitutional crisis needlessly, given that O could have followed his Libya blueprint and attacked first before consulting Congress later. But now that he’s talking about “the world’s red line,” not his own, maybe he thinks he has some sort of international duty — we’ll call it, per his Secretary of State, the “global test” — to enforce the taboo against WMD even if America’s legislature votes no. And let’s be honest: Given the years-long trends in his presidency towards interventionism and executive power grabs, that would be a logical move for him to make. He ignored Congress, as well as his own lawyers, to attack Libya. He refused to enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate despite it being statutorily required and doesn’t even pretend he has legal authority to do so. What’s left except to declare war unilaterally, with the people’s representatives formally in opposition (and the people themselves heavily opposed)?

If Paul can get Congress to agree that an attack after a no vote would be unconstitutional, that might make things sufficiently politically uncomfortable for O that he’ll have to stand down even if he doesn’t want to. It’ll be a constitutional crisis either way, but having both chambers specify in advance that this is egregiously illegal puts extra pressure on him not to act. Which makes me wonder if he’s counting on a House/Senate split on this. He can probably get to 60 in the Senate with most Democrats voting yes and a handful of GOP hawks joining them. If the vote fails in the House, then he’ll simply say oh well, Congress is gridlocked again, which leaves him no choice but to resolve this stalemate with executive action. (His quote on the employer mandate: “[W]here Congress is unwilling to act, I will take whatever administrative steps that I can in order to do right by the American people.”) The vote to watch, then, may be the one in the Senate, not the House. If he can get 51 there, which seems likely, then he can claim he had a majority of one chamber at least. If he can’t, things get more difficult for him. Surely there are 51 Democratic hacks willing to swallow hard and protect what’s left of the president’s credibility, no?