PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - President Obama said Syria has "crossed a red line" when it comes to allegations the country used chemical weapons against rebels. Now, the Administration has authorized limited-aid to those rebels.
"We're going to keep working for a Syria that's free from Assad's tyranny," said the president in a recent press conference.
Some members of Congress say the president may be crossing a different line – the War Powers Act, legislation drawn in 1973.
That legislation, passed at the close of the Vietnam War, was designed to prevent America's leaders from committing U.S. military to long conflicts without a declaration of war or Congressional approval. Now, there is concern that the president may be in violation of this accord by providing assistance to the Syrian Rebels.
With the conflict in Syria continuing to escalate, the exact nature of the assistance authorized by the Obama Administration is still unclear. According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials said the aid would include a range of small arms such as assault rifles, shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades and other anti-tank missiles.
"It is not the king's army," said Virginia's 2nd District Congressman Scott Rigell in a phone interview with WAVY.com. "It is not, to one person, regardless of who's in office or a political standpoint to have the unilateral authority to engage."
Rigell said that the president's decision to arm the rebels violates the War Powers Act, that essentially requires three key elements before the Commander-in-Chief can commit the country to a military conflict.
First, the president must consult with Congress. Second, it applies to all circumstances where American military forces are to be deployed or where the number of forces already deployed is to be significantly increased for combat purposes. Third, the president must report to both the senate and the house within 48 hours.
"I do believe the president needs to come to Congress and call us into joint session and explain his plan of what he's trying to accomplish," said Rigell.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine told WAVY.com that some arms shipments fall short of what's required to commit American troops, yet Congress needs to be consulted in a "significant way."
"We shouldn't be putting American troops in harms way without Congress' approval," Kaine said in a phone interview. "I think the President is certainly wise to be looking at strategies that don't involve American troops, but I still think the consultation with Congress is important."
Congressman Rigell sponsored an amendment that passed with bipartisan support in the House declaring the president's decision to provide military assistance in Libya two years ago -- a violation of the War Powers Act.
Rigell's position on Syria appears to have bipartisan support as well, at least with Virginia's congressional delegation.
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