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As Trump Threatens to Bomb Syria, Lawmakers Say Attack Without Congressional Approval "Unconstitutional"
April 11, 2018
Progressive leaders also pointed out that "it has become increasingly clear that U.S. military interventions will likely add to the mass suffering in Syria."
By Jessica Corbett
As President Donald Trump ramped up threats against Syria and Russia early Wednesday in response to the Syrian government's suspected use of chemical weapons on civilians over the weekend, peace advocates continued to discourage any action that would escalate the years-long conflict while American lawmakers warned that launching an attack without congressional approval would be unconstitutional.
While expressing concern about the alleged chemical attack, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), along with CPC Peace & Security Taskforce chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), cautioned against the influence of warmonger John Bolton, Trump's new national security adviser, and reminded the president that "any U.S. use of force must be authorized by Congress first, as required by the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution."
"Syria's civil war continues to be a complex regional conflict," the CPC leaders noted, and it has become increasingly clear that U.S. military interventions will likely add to the mass suffering in Syria."
Condemning "the past two decades of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East—including President Trump's unauthorized airstrikes on Syria last year," they called on Trump "to immediately reverse his policy of denying protections to Syrian refugees fleeing violence," and "to engage our allies and enforce international prohibitions on chemical weapons diplomatically and ensure that proper investigations can proceed."
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) spoke out in support of the CPC statement, adding that any "unconstitutional strike" ordered by Trump should be considered "an impeachable offense."
Lee and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) joined with Republican Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Justin Amash (Mich.) to reiterate in a statement that "the Constitution clearly gives Congress, not the executive branch, the power to authorize war. Any use of force against Syria requires approval from Congress first."
By Seth McLaughlin
Liberal lawmakers on Thursday said there is a prime opportunity to put Americans workers first in new NAFTA trade deal that the Trump White House is hashing out with Canada and Mexico.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus was part of a broad coalition of groups that helped sink the Trans Pacific Partnership deal and is intent on putting its imprint on President Trump’s push to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“It is time for President Trump to live up to his rhetoric and actually deliver for working-class families,” said Rep. Marc Pocan, co-chairman of the CPC. “President Trump owes it to working-class families across the country to get a good deal on NAFTA and end the outsourcing of jobs.”
NAFTA talks are underway in Washington, and Mr. Trump has signaled an interest in getting a deal in principle as soon as next week, which could potentially pave the way for the current Congress to vote on a deal before the end of the year.
In a conference call on Thursday, Mr. Pocan, Wisconsin Democrat, as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Ro Khanna of California applauded Mr. Trump for revisiting the deal, but said it is unclear whether the changes the White House is pursuing will dovetail with their core demands.
The group called for stronger labor and environmental requirements, establishing safeguards so workers are not exploited inside and outside the United States, and for a bolstering of human rights.
They claimed 1 million jobs have been lost since NAFTA went into effect in 1994 and that communities of color have been among the hardest hit communities.
They said a new deal must eliminate “special corporate privileges” — specifically the Investor State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, clause that allows foreign companies to sue governments over laws or rules that hurt their investments.
“Any renegotiation of NAFTA must eliminate the incentives for outsourcing jobs, raise wages and level the playing field for American workers,” Mrs. DeLauro said. “The biggest economic challenge of our time … is that too many people are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. Bad trade exasperate that issue.”
They vowed to work with Mr. Trump, but expressed skepticism over his goals, saying his $1.3 trillion tax cut was a giveaway to corporations. And they lamented a lack of transparency in the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
“We want to see trade policies that protect American jobs. That is what the president says at the surface and that is where the details end,” Mr. Pocan said. “I personally can’t say I have an especially good indication of where the president wants to go. I have not seen it laid out or articulated”
Mr. Trump has thrust issues of trade the front of the national discussion since taking office and vowing to deliver on his campaign pledge to rework NAFTA, which he has describes as “disaster” and a “cash cow” for the nation’s trading partners.
Mr. Trump has withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership, initiated a review of the 2012 U.S.-Korea trade deal and slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, leading to retaliatory tariffs from China on pork, fruit and other products shipped out of the U.S.
NAFTA talks continued this week as Mexican officials — including Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo — traveled to Washington to meet with Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative.
Progressives have long opposed the NAFTA agreement that former President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.
Railing against deal was a hallmark of Sen. Bernard Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016 and of the Vermont independent’s long political career on Capitol Hill, where he voted against the trade deal, describing it as a “lose-lose agreement” and a giveaway to corporations that led to the shipping of good-paying jobs overseas.