Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post and, in doing so, made it clear that President Obama could (and might) order a military strike on Syria even if Congress rejects military action.
Even though Obama is now seeking Congress’ support, Kerry insisted that the president is not bound by law to stand down should his plan be rejected.Of course, the unstated constitutional cover to which Kerry referred is Article II, Section 2, which names the president as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." In contemporary terms, this has been interpreted by the executive branch as broad constitutional cover for the president to order up strikes without congressional approval.
Hadn’t the president in essence ceded that leeway by coming to Congress? I asked the secretary of state.
The answer, he said, was no.
“Constitutionally, every president, Republican and Democrat alike, has always reserved to the presidency, to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the right to make a decision with respect to American security,” Kerry said during an interview in his State Department reception room on Thursday.
This despite the 'War Powers Clause' – Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 – which grants Congress the power to declare war.
In the interview with Fineman, Kerry made it clear that his anti-war, activist past makes him a more credible advocate for military action today.
Funny how he cites the same constitutional justification used by those who have waged wars he's opposed (Gulf of Tonkin notwithstanding).