Senate Lying to Self with ‘Tailored’ Syria Resolution
A highly regarded separation of powers expert says the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s oddly worded resolution to authorize military force in Syria might be more expansive than its drafters intend, according to the Washington Times.
At issue is the resolution’s use of the words “limited and tailored” in the phrase giving President Barack Obama power “to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and tailored manner against legitimate military targets in Syria…”
Louis Fisher, a former long-time expert at the Congressional Research Service and author of a leading treatise on presidential war powers, says the word choice is unprecedented and could be so vague that it creates space for an escalation.
“What could possibly be the meaning of ‘limited and tailored’? I doubt if I’ve ever seen the word ‘tailored’ in a bill,” Fisher told the paper. “Even if the ‘intent’ of Congress is a limited war, war has its own momentum.”
In other words, use of the word ‘tailored’ in the resolution can mean anything to the clever lawyers who will twist it however they please, so in reality that word, and any limiting effect it is designed to have, is meaningless.
It is impossible for me to imagine that the people drafting this resolution don’t know this. Therefore, it seems almost certain that the underlying intent here is to sound like they are limiting the President’s options while in fact not doing so at all.
If we’re going to bomb Syria then we are going to war with Syria. If that’s in America’s national security interest, Congress should declare it in unambiguous language.
To my mind it’s better to do nothing than to say something that means nothing.
Otherwise, Congress is just lying to itself so that it can act outraged when the President uses the resolution to wage a war the Senate and House impliedly authorized.