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Congress Avoids the War but Quickly Acts Against its Refugees

Congress lost no time when threatened by refugees. It rushed to pass a law to hobble their admittance, hastily throwing aside Paul Ryan's promise that the House would return to the orderly process of developing legislation in committees.

The President called them out: "Now suddenly they're able to rush in, in a day or two [after the Paris attacks], to solve the threat of widows and orphans and others who are fleeing a war-torn land and that's their most constructive contribution to the effort against ISIL?"

Obama was undoubtedly referring as well to the avoidance by Congress to authorize force in Syria. With much the same motivation for speedily acting against a refugee program that might have personal consequences, neither do its members want to be on record for any war plan that might fail and jeopardize their hope of re-election for life.

When the administration concluded that the regime of Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against its own people, crossing the "red line" that Obama had said would provoke U.S. intervention, the President's wanted congressional approval before launching a military response. That, though, was interpreted as his attempt to avoid taking action, confident that Congress would shrink from its constitutional role "to declare War". Russia's proposal that Assad eliminate its chemical weapons was embraced by Obama, and Congress was happy to do nothing, a role in which they are supremely accomplished and which they have continued to perform for over two years since.

That has left in place only the AUMF, an Authorization for Use of Military Force that permits action only against those involved in "the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001". That description does not fit today's enemies. Obama is thus acting on his own, unconstitutionally, yet is blamed for not taking more decisive action. Three years on in the Syrian civil war, the excuse for inaction as expressed by McConnell (and this was after the Paris attacks) is that Obama "still has not laid out a strategy". Some 8,000 bombing runs and the insertion of a limited number of special op troops is, so far, the strategy that has apparently gone unnoticed by McConnell. His demand that the Commander in Chief apply to the Senate for approval of his war plans is, of course, the continuing excuse for doing nothing.

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