House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said President Obama has the go-ahead to use military force in Syria without congressional approval if negotiations fall through.
“If we passed a resolution, he’d have a stronger hand,” Hoyer said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, which will air Sunday. “But having said that, neither the Russians nor the Syrians ought to conclude that the president is without authority to act.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva negotiating with Russia to pressure its Syrian ally to give up its chemical weapons stockpile.
Any vote in Congress on military action in Syria has been placed on hold in order to let negotiations progress. And senators are drafting new language that would set a timeline for Syria to give up its weapons, using the threat of military force.
If negotiations fall through, Hoyer said they will still serve to give wavering lawmakers more incentive to vote for military action.
“People would say, ‘Well, he went the extra mile, he reached out, he took the diplomatic course that people had been urging him to take -- and it didn’t work,’ ” Hoyer said. “And therefore under those circumstances, the only option available to us to preclude the further use of chemical weapons and to try to deter and degrade Syria’s ability to use them is to act.’”
Hoyer’s statement brings him in line with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said earlier this week Obama has the authority to act without congressional approval.
"It is not necessary for Congress to give the president this authority," Pelosi said Tuesday. "But if he sees an opportunity, we don't want the Russians to think that his leverage is diminished because of a vote we may or may not succeed with in the Congress."