Sen. Bob Corker is urging the Obama administration to come to Congress and request authority before launching strikes inside Syria. (Chip Somodevilla/ / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama should seek congressional approval before launching strikes inside Syria, and Congress should answer by amending a key post-9/11 measure, says the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Republican.
As reports surfaced about Pentagon planning at the White House’s behest to strike Islamic State targets on Syrian soil, lawmakers are interrupting their August recess to urge Obama to let Congress give him clear legal approval before any bombing campaign begins.
“We should, certainly, authorize this,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” political program. “Congress should own … military action.”
Some national security law scholars say the Obama administration simply could use the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) passed after 9/11 to justify the attacks.
“I hope that is not what they will do,” Corker said, joining the ranks in Congress pushing for the first revision to the 2001-passed measure. “I hope what they will instead do is come to Congress and ask for a new authorization for a new threat that has evolved over time.
“What Congress wants to do, in fact, is broaden his authority, and narrow it at the same time,” Corker said, acknowledging, “I know that sound strange.”
To that end, there is talk on Capitol Hill and in academia about giving presidents stronger legal authority to hit targets in places like Yemen, Syria and the Horn of Africa — while also including some geographic and time limits.
Lawmakers for years have talked about a need to revise or repeal-and-replace the post-9/11 AUMF with a version that provides a better legal justification for targeting violent extremist groups that have sprang up since 9/11 in places beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Experts and some lawmakers — from both parties — have said the measure is outdated and needs to reflect a changed fight against al-Qaida and similar forces in places beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., told CongressWatch earlier this summer that they are preparing an amendment to the 2015 national defense authorization bill that would update the 2001 AUMF.
“Things have evolved tremendously” since that 2001 measure was passed, Corker said Tuesday.
The War Powers Act allows presidents “60 days of activities without notifying Congress.”
A broader use-of-force resolution will be needed for fighting the Islamic State, Corker says, because “this is gonna have to be something that’s far more coordinated.”
What’s more, “it will have to take place in Iraq and in Syria for it to be effective,” he said.
The veteran senator said he has asked the White House “several times in the last several days” for more details on its plans for fighting the Islamic State — including Syria strike plans — but has yet to receive a response. ■