Lee pushes bill requiring president to seek approval for ‘humanitarian’ military actions

In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017. The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. | Photo courtesy of Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via The Associated Press, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Following last week’s missile strike against a Syrian airfield by U.S. forces, a Utah senator is calling on Congress to vote on a proposed bill that would require the president to seek congressional approval for military strikes conducted for humanitarian reasons.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, are pushing the “Military Humanitarian Operations Act” they introduced to the Senate earlier this year.

“To help clarify and ensure that military force is used appropriately, Senator Rand Paul and I introduced S. 409, the Military Humanitarian Operations Act,” Lee said in a statement Monday. “It states any military operations conducted to fulfill a humanitarian purpose where hostilities are anticipated must be authorized by Congress.”

Lee’s push for the bill comes in response to last week’s military strike against a Syrian airfield from which Syrian President Bashar Assad is accused of having ordered planes into the air for the purpose of launching chemical attacks on civilians.

Gruesome images of the aftermath of the chemical attack were picked up by regional media and soon spread across the globe. Various world leaders condemned the attack laid at Assad’s feet. Last Thursday the United State’s responded with missile fire via President Donald Trump’s order.

Trump did not seek the prior approval of Congress to conduct the strikes, something Lee pointed out in his response to the strikes Thursday evening.

President Trump should make his case in front of the American people and allow their elected representatives to debate the benefits and risks of further Middle East intervention to our national security interests,” Lee said Thursday.

For his part, Paul told CNN Saturday that the president’s unilateral action is an “inappropriate way to start a war” and that it should have been put to a vote in Congress,

Rand further stated: “As horrific as those attacks were, and as heart-rending as the pictures and the atrocity and the children dying are, I don’t believe that there was a national security interest of the United States.”

The president and senior administration officials had indicated the U.S. may strike at the Assad regime again should other attacks against civilians occur, Lee said. He argues any future attack, even for humanitarian purposes, must go through Congress first.

“We are all angered by the pictures and stories from Syria in recent years, and the desire to retaliate for these unfathomable attacks is understandable,” Lee said. “However the past 200 years, the separate and distinct roles of the executive and the legislative branches to declare war, launch military attacks, and defend against or retaliate for an attack against the United States have become blurred.”

He further stated:

While such operations and interventions are well intentioned, recent history has shown they are often risky and may result in unintended consequences that are detrimental to our national security. They should only be undertaken after serious consideration and approval by the elected representatives of the American people, ensuring that public accountability on war-making decisions exists.

FILE – In this June 7, 2016 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, addresses a speech to the newly-elected parliament at the parliament building, in Damascus, Syria. Assad’s government came under mounting international pressure Thursday, April 6, 2017, after a chemical attack in northern Syria, with even key ally Russia saying its support is not unconditional. | Photo by SANA via AP, St. George News

In light of the developments over the past week, I call on the Senate to take up and pass S. 409 and for President Trump to work with Congress to achieve consensus on national security policies as called for in the Constitution.

Assad reportedly used chemical weapons against civilians in 2013, CNN reported. President Barack Obama sought congressional approval for military action in Syria at the time with top Republicans opposed to it.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was among those who apposed military strikes the Obama administration was asking for.

“What is clear is that launching a few missiles will do nothing to end Syria’s civil war, and is neither a real strategy to stop the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria nor a guarantee that chemical weapons won’t be used in the future by the Assad regime,” Hatch said. “That is not a plan for the region.

“That’s why I continue to have strong reservations about authorizing the use of force against Syria,” he said.

Last week Hatch showed his approval for the military strike over Twitter by writing “Amen” following a line taken from Trump’s speech explaining why he ordered the attack.

A request for comment from Hatch’s office regarding the senator’s stance on whether or not Trump should have sought congressional approval prior to last week’s military action was not returned by time of publication.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • Utahguns April 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I compare it to smacking a dog’s nose with a newspaper, or spanking an unruly child in aisle 3 of Walmart.
    It’s not an act of war. It’s an act of “Hey, we’re not the wimps we used to be under Obama.”
    It’s a message that our diplomacy has more muscle than simply shrugging disapprovingly while checking Tinder. Hillary would do, and wanted to do, the same thing. You can damn Trump for changing his mind, but you would have damned him for doing the opposite.

    There are two ways to explain the Syria strike.
    You can explain what happened: “Missiles hit a facility.”
    Or you can explain what it means: “This strike is exactly the means we will take we will perform and maintain a persona of resolute toughness without igniting an actual conflict with people.” But, you’ll never the liberal media say this.

    That’s all it is — the comfortable middle ground between the impotence of Obama doing nothing (drawing that proverbial red line in the sand) and the hysteria of escalation.
    Yes, America, we elected a leader with a backbone.
    ‘Bout time….

    • comments April 12, 2017 at 11:02 am

      You’re naive, like a child, as usual. It probably wasn’t even ‘the donald’ that made the call. There’s powerful interests who’ve been wanting a war US/syria war long before he came about. With all this blathering about assad being like hitler coming from the new administration I expect they’re gonna ramp this syria thing into a full on US intervention. It’s what israel has been wanting for years, and I think the donald is going to cow to their desires.

      • Utahguns April 12, 2017 at 11:28 am

        You consistently take the position of judge and jury towards anyone making comments (sorry to use the word “comments” since you have bastardized this word) on this site.
        Get real. The country, our borders and our allies have been damaged by the last administration and you position yourself as an enlightened seer of the way you think things are. Your surely entitled to your opinion, but, you wouldn’t be saying those things if you were within arms reach to me.
        Yes you can hide behind your keyboard, but, that may be the only sense of security you have.
        You’re an example of what I said about spanking an unruly child in aisle 3 of Walmart.
        You need a good smacking.

        • comments April 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm

          Ohhhh, Utah guns, a real tough guy. I’m sure you’d shoot me with some of your ‘utah guns’. Don’t take it all so personal here. I think ‘the donald’ has fooled a great many people. I listened to a few of his campaign speeches online, and yes they were quite good and addressed many issues that are important to us common people. But seeing what he’s done since being in office I think the man is a fraud, a liar, and a complete egomaniac. So calm yourself, don’t take it personal.

  • Not_So_Much April 12, 2017 at 6:45 am

    I hope someone in Congress would include a mandate for a binding vote within 24 hours of a request for action.

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