Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes

Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes
© Greg Nash

Two members from opposite sides of the political spectrum called on President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE Monday to clarify the specific threats that led to airstrikes conducted against targets in Iraq and Syria last month.

Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight House panel advances 6B Pentagon bill on party-line vote House panel votes to repeal 2001, 2002 war authorizations MORE (D-Calif.) penned a letter together saying the airstrikes "raise major constitutional concerns." 

“Our Constitution gives the authority to declare war only to Congress. It is implied that the President has limited authority to act to defend our national interests in exigent circumstances. The Executive Branch has no authority conducting offensive strikes without Congressional approval," said Biggs, who co-chairs the War Powers Caucus along with California Democratic Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOvernight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills MORE

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Biggs, Khanna, Lee and Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Biden: Social media platforms 'killing people' | Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push | Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes MORE (R-Colo.) founded the War Powers Caucus in 2019, finding commonalities in an issue that unites the Republican right and the Democratic left.

"The Biden Administration has taken offensive action in the recent airstrike on the Iraq-Syria border without bringing this to Congress for approval. Without appropriate justification of an imminent threat to the United States, it is clear that President Biden exceeded his constitutional authority,” added Biggs. 

On June 27, the Pentagon announced it had carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, targeting operational and weapons storage facilities connected to Iranian militias in the region.

It was the second such airstrike under Biden's command, after similar attacks on militia targets in eastern Syria in February. 

In their letter, Biggs and Lee questioned Biden's justification of imminent danger to U.S. citizens, comparing Biden's reasoning to former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE's decision to target Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

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"When President Trump conducted the airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani in January [2020], you said that his administration's assertion that the strike was conducted in self-defense was not adequate because his administration did not supply 'the necessary evidence to support that conclusion,' " wrote the lawmakers. 

"Your administration's claim that this recent action was done to defend our troops likewise must be accompanied by evidence necessary to support the conclusion that our troops were in danger in this instance," they added.

The lawmakers asked the administration to provide a written response or classified briefing by Aug. 1, laying out details of what prompted the June airstrikes, and Biden's own interpretation of constitutional war powers.