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By: Bill Bartel
June 15, 2013
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, who argued two years ago that President Barack Obama overstepped his authority by engaging U.S. forces in Libya without congressional approval, pushed the same point Friday as Obama considered how to respond to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people.
The Virginia Beach Republican said his concerns go beyond Syria to the larger issue of presidents - including Obama and George W. Bush - not consulting Congress before committing U.S. troops when there is no immediate threat to U.S. national security.
Rigell said he wants it made clear that "it's not the king's army.... It's not up to one person entrusted with that office to have the unilateral authority just because their conscience is tugged by injustices around the world."
Rigell successfully included an amendment in a massive defense spending bill the House approved Friday that states Obama's decision to launch airstrikes against Libyan government troops without consulting Congress "is contrary to the intent of the framers of the Constitution which vests sole authority to declare war in the legislative branch."
The president has a constitutional duty as commander in chief to order military action when the nation's security is threatened, Rigell said. But using military force overseas without legislative approval does not meet that standard and diminishes Congress's authority, he said.
As part of a United Nations effort in 2011, U.S. and European military forces began air assaults against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces after he began killing Libyan civilians seeking to drive him from power. American forces provided most of the equipment and manpower for intelligence-gathering, surveillance and aerial refueling, according to the Defense Department.
Obama had said U.S. involvement was justified because it was limited and would stop what he characterized as a looming genocide.
Rigell stressed that he's not automatically against U.S. military engagement overseas but wants Congress to debate the issue before action is taken.
"I'm not an isolationist," he said.