Florida Rep. Tom Rooney on Tuesday introduced a bill with Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, to force President Obama to seek congressional approval before getting the United States involved in the fighting in Syria, Rooney’s office announced in a news release.
The bill would prohibit any military action by U.S. forces, including providing weapons or other support, without authorization from Congress.
“What is the goal of providing weapons to the rebels?” Rooney asked in the release. “The president needs to make a convincing case that this is in our national security interest, and he needs to lay out a clear and comprehensive mission, including an exit strategy. He hasn’t done that yet.”
Rooney, a Republican whose district covers a large swatch of west-central Florida from Lake Okeechobee to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, said an email survey his office conducted last week showed respondents overwhelmingly opposed to U.S. involvement.
According to results from approximately 4,500 survey respondents, almost 94 percent said the U.S. lacked clear mission, understanding of the risks, or plausible exit strategy for a Syrian intervention.
Almost 84 percent of respondents opposed arming rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, according to the survey, and nearly 80 percent opposed using American air power to establish a “no-fly zone” over Syria to counter the regime’s air superiority over the rebels.
Virtually all of the respondents – 97 percent – opposed active involvement of American forces, or “boots on the ground,” in the conflict, Rooney’s survey showed, according to the release.
In announcing the “Congressional Accountability and Oversight in Syria Act,” Rooney described his misgivings regarding aid to the rebels and said the bill was consistent with the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which Congress passed in the wake of the Vietnam War to strengthen its oversight of presidential use of military force.
He said the murkiness of the Syrian situation makes congressional consultation – and authorization – all the more necessary before the United States make a commitment it can’t really control.
“Senior administration officials have told me they can’t give any assurance that our weapons won’t wind up in the hands of al Qaeda,” Rooney said in the release. “So what’s our endgame? If the president wants to take us into Syria, he needs to come to Congress and convince us.”
In the release, McCaul agreed.
“Arming the rebels in Syria potentially places those weapons into the hands of the Islamist extremists who have infiltrated their ranks and who continue to plot against the United States and our interests abroad,” said McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“If the president believes American involvement in Syria is necessary, he will have to present a convincing plan to the Congress and make the case that providing assistance to Syrian opposition forces would not pose a national security threat to the United States.”