Thirty-five days after he was sworn into office as President of the United States, Joe Biden ordered airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Syria, in response to rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq. Congress has not declared war against Syria or Iran.
However, Congress never revoked the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which authorized the war in Iraq, despite numerous attempts in multiple legislative sessions to do so.
“There’s no general authority for a president to launch airstrikes, and President Biden hasn’t claimed they were necessary to stop an imminent attack,” commented Michigan’s former Rep. Justin Amash. “Our Constitution demands he get approval from the representatives of the people.”
Some within the Biden administration used to know the constitutional limits of presidential power. Comments from Press Secretary Jen Psaki from April 2017 criticizing former President Trump for launching airstrikes against Syria haven’t aged very well.
Psaki asked what “legal authority for strikes” Trump had in Syria. “Assad is a brutal dictator,” she tweeted, “But Syria is a sovereign country.”
Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Minn.) resurfaced Psaki’s tweet and asked, “Great question,” while Republican Congressman (Mich.) Peter Meijer added that the question “dovetails nicely with a renewed push for AUMF reform!”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby spun the strike in eastern Syria as “proportionate” and “defensive,” saying they “were authorized in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel.”