This Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Was Consistent on Syrian Airstrikes

From Obama to Trump, a few House members urged both presidents to wait for the congressional OK.

April 27, 2018 10:00 am
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., arrives to the Capitol before the House passed the Republicans' bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on May 4, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., arrives to the Capitol before the House passed the Republicans' bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on May 4, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

On the same day that President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to strike Syrian military facilities in response to the latest purported regime-ordered chemical attack, a large bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives sent the president a letter in which they “strongly urge[d]” him to seek Congressional approval before acting.

As missiles rained down on the night of April 13, it became clear that, like he had before ordering a similar but smaller attack a year ago, Trump concluded the approval of lawmakers was unnecessary.

But the seemingly ineffectual letter did accomplish at least one thing, when compared with a very similar letter written by lawmakers to then-President Barack Obama in 2013: It revealed which House members stayed refreshingly consistent in their position, regardless of the party of the president, and which, for whatever reason, did not.

Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, pointed out the apparent partisanship-laid-bare on Twitter.

“Witness the hypocrisy that our two-party system breeds: Check out these similar letters warning the president about commencing offensive strikes against Syria without congressional approval,” Amash wrote the night of Trump’s latest strikes. In 2013, 119 Republicans and 21 Democrats urged Obama to get congressional approval. While in 2018, only 15 Republicans and 73 Democrats said essentially the same thing. “Very few of us signed both,” he wrote.

The situations are of course not identical — a lot has happened in Syria and in the U.S. in the five years between the letters — but the basic question remains: Should congressional approval be required for military action against the government of a nation against which the U.S. is not at war and which arguably does not present a direct threat to the U.S.?

There are some noteworthy caveats to take into account before labeling lawmakers who signed one letter but not the other as hypocrites. First and foremost, the 113th Congress, which was around for the first letter in 2013, is obviously not the same as the current 115th Congress. More than 40 members who signed the first letter are no longer in the House, and at least a few of the 2018 signers are freshmen congressmen this year, for example.

Amash also added his own caveats in his tweetstorm. “There are good reasons why a particular person might not have signed one of the letters: The House membership is different. In addition, a person might not have known about one of them, or might have been sick or away that day, or perhaps had a nuanced but valid objection to one,” he wrote then.

“But,” he said, “those factors should wash out in the aggregate. The fact that the tallies are so different indicates that something else is at work at the macro level: double standards, selective outrage, and hypocrisy.”

In light of that, of the approximately 80 lawmakers who signed the first letter and were serving in the House for the second, RealClearLife identified the lawmakers in both parties who stuck to their guns, so to speak, and urged both presidents to wait for the congressional “OK.” The analysis found that it’s a small, but very balanced bipartisan group of 19: 10 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

Without further ado, America’s team of definitely-not-hypocrites in the House (at least when it comes to congressional authority for strikes targeting the Syrian regime):

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.)
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.)
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)
Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.)
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.)

Lee Ferran is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist and the founder of Code and Dagger, a foreign affairs and national security news website.

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