140 House members say Obama needs approval from Congress on Syria

More than 100 lawmakers, including 21 Democrats, have signed a letter that says President Obama would violate the Constitution by striking Syria without first getting authorization from Congress.

A total of 140 lawmakers had signed the letter as of Thursday, highlighting bipartisan interest and growing momentum in ensuring a role for Congress in any decision to use force in Syria. The letter has yet to be sent to the White House.

“Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,” states the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.).

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“I’m grateful and encouraged by the strong, bipartisan support this letter has received,” Rigell said in a statement this evening. “It’s a clear indication that this issue is not personal to the president, but rather represents common ground in Congress and a deep respect for the Constitution.”

The Democrats who have signed the letter so far are Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Rush Holt (N.J.), Beto O’Rourke (Texas), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), William Enyart (Ill.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Bruce Braley, (Iowa), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Peter Welch (Vt.), Rick Nolan (Minn.), David Loebsack (Iowa), Jim Matheson (Utah), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Daniel Lipinski, (Ill.) and Dan Maffei (N.Y.).

Current Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) is among the Republicans who has signed onto Rigell’s effort. However, his predecessor, former Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.), has repeatedly said on TV news programs that Obama does not need authorization from Congress to move forward.

Rigell has called on Obama to bring Congress back to Washington early to consider the authorization of military force against Syria.

“If you deem that military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your convenience,” the letter states.

The congressman also wrote that the president’s decision to authorize the 2011 U.S. military in Libya without Congress’s green light was unconstitutional.

News reports suggest U.S. strikes on Syria could begin as early as Thursday. Congress is not set to return to Washington until Sept. 9.

The administration has reached out to discuss its thinking with lawmakers on several committees, as well as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

—This story was first posted at 10:25 a.m. on Aug. 28 and last updated at 3:01 p.m. on Aug. 29.