Rand Paul Syria Amendment Threatens Impeachment

Rand Paul's amendment on President Obama's Syria military strike will make it impossible for him to strike legally without Congress approving.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky

Senator Rand Paul, shown here speaking, is adding an amendment to the Syria military strike bill that will allow the President to be impeached if he strikes Syria without approval. (Image Source: Gage Skidmore, CC-BY-SA)

As we have been noting in recent days, the U.S. Congress' discussion of President Barack Obama's resolution for a military strike in Syria has been met with some hostility, with a distinct possibility that the resolution will not pass.  Leading the opposition to the bill is rising Republican star Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has consistently argued against intervention on several different grounds.  Now, to ensure that the path to a military strike is very difficult, Senator Paul has introduced an amendment to the Syria military strike bill that will hold the President in violation of the Constitution if Obama conducts a military strike without Congressional approval.  While somewhat redundant, this amendment could be used as grounds for impeaching President Obama in the future.

The two-page amendment, posted this morning to the Congressional Record and seen below, references a previous statement made by President Obama back in 2007, when he was a Senator and presidential candidate.  In an interview to the Boston Globe, then-Senator Obama said:

"The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. History has shown us time and again ... that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch."

One could argue that Rand Paul is making President Obama eat his words, but this is more a matter of principle than sheer obstructionism that much of the right seems to partake in at this point. After all, Paul was thankful when the Justice Department clarified that drones cannot be used in the U.S. to kill noncombatants without due process, following his marathon filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to be Director of the CIA.

The amendment is a form of redundancy, since under Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, the President cannot authorize any military action without Congressional approval.  However, given that President Obama struck Libya in 2012 without Congress's blessing, this amendment is intended to give the law some teeth, and present a route for impeaching the President, given that violating the clause could be considered a "high crime and misdemeanor."  One could also argue that the Syria military strike is considered treason, given that the strike would aid al-Qaeda, and thus be grounds for impeachment anyway.  But that is a detail most are brushing under the rug, since approving a strike would mean anyone who supports the measure is committing treason.

Paul Syria Amendment