Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) sent a letter today to all Senate and House Members with suggested improvements to the Senate Resolution on Syria, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 4, 2013. Sherman is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Ranking Member for the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. The text of the letter follows:
September 6, 2013
TO: Senate and House Members
RE: Need to Strike Last Eight Words of Section 3 of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Resolution.
Senators Menendez and Corker are to be commended for their bipartisan efforts. The purpose of this letter is to propose an improvement to Section 3 of the Resolution (S.J. Res 21) which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 4, 2013.
Section 3 currently reads as follows: "The authority granted in Section 2(a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces on the ground in Syria for the purpose of combat operations [emphasis added]."
The words "for the purpose of combat operations" should be stricken from the Resolution. The Resolution should not authorize American armed forces on the ground in Syria, even if they are there only to advise or train the Free Syria Army or other dissident elements. The Resolution must be drafted carefully so that we are not asking our colleagues to authorize the Armed Forces of the United States to be on the ground in the territory of Syria for any reason.
The words "in Syria" should also be stricken. We should not be asking our colleagues to authorize ground operations in Lebanon or any other country to which Syrian chemical weapons might be taken, or to which Syrian command and control, delivery systems, or other assets relevant to chemical weapons might be taken.
The purpose of this letter is to focus on the exact text of the Resolution we will consider this month. Some who are reading this letter will believe that the President should have the authority to send trainers or advisers on the ground in Syria, or to send our ground forces into other countries to which Syrianchemical weapons might be taken. Even if you believe that the President should have such broad authority, such authority should not be granted by the text of this resolution. The President already has the inherent authority to take such emergency action without Congressional approval for up to sixty days under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Nothing in this Resolution should add to the President's existing authority to deploy ground forces.
Those who would draft a resolution so as to give the President more than the absolute minimum authority he needs to carry out the plan he has described risk that the House will vote against providing any authority at all.
I look forward to discussing these issues with you.