Obama seeks congressional approval, foreign support for Syrian intervention
President Barack Obama is seeking congressional support for air strikes in Syria.
The move comes after Obama stated his intent to intervene in the Syrian civil war because of evidence he says points to the Syrian government using chemical weapons against its own citizens.
“Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” Obama said during a press conference Saturday in the Rose Garden.
He also said military units are stationed in the area ready to attack at a moments notice before surprising most by stating his intent to ask for congressional approval.
“But having made my decision as commander-in-chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy,” Obama said. “I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
On Wednesday, he received key support from Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Obama now seeks international support at the G-20 summit, a meeting of leading wealthy and developing nations held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a supporter of the government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey met before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to state their case for attacking Syria.
“One of the reasons Assad has been using these materials is because they have, up until now, made the calculation that the West writ large and the United States particularly are not going to do anything about it,” Kerry said during the meeting. “Impunity is already working to kill a lot of people and to make things more dangerous.”
On Wednesday, the ccommittee passed by a vote of 10-7 a resolution to allow Obama to take limited military action against Syria. The resolution now moves to the full Senate for deliberation.
According to David Yepsen, Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, it is difficult to predict how Congress will act.
“The polls are running against the president in this,” he said. “Yet at the same time, the establishments, both Republican and Democrat, are behind the president. It’s too early to tell how Congress will vote.”
Two key victories for same-sex marriages
On Aug. 29, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department ruled same-sex couples legally married in place that recognize same-sex marriages will be recognized as such for tax purposes, even if they live in a jurisdiction that does not recognize the marriage.
The ruling comes as a huge victory for same-sex couples. They will be able to file jointly on income tax and will receive benefits that heterosexual couples now receive. This comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the main hurdle in federal recognition of same-sex marriages, the Defense of Marriage Act, declaring it unconstitutional.
According to Sandy Pensoneau-Conway, assistant professor of speech communications and Carbondale Rainbow Café board member, the IRS decision marks a step forward for same-sex couples at the federal level.
“There is definitely a level of (legitimacy) that has happened with the IRS decision,” she said. “We’re going to see more types of these policies coming down just because the IRS decision to recognize same-sex marriage at the federal level is a result of the DOMA decision that happened a couple months ago.”
Two days later, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over the same-sex marriage of two of her close friends. This makes her the first Supreme Court justice to preside over such a marriage.
“This kind of action by institutional figures to recognize love for greater inclusion is both exciting and necessary,” said Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center. “In order for individuals’ minds to change, institutions have to change, and often institutions have to change first.”
Pensoneau-Conway said the events are a good step in terms of public view. These steps, while positive, were only a small victory in terms of acceptance of all sexual identities and relationships, she said.
“These certainly are moments to celebrate, but they are just moments, they’re not the pinnacle,” she said. “So we have to put them in that context and ask what moments can these types of celebrations engender to help us continue to move forward in acknowledging and accepting all different sorts of people and the relationships those people are in.”
Department of Justice to keep hands off Washington and Colorado marijuana laws
Attorney General Eric Holder recently contacted the governors of Washington and Colorado to say that he would allow the marijuana legalization laws of each state to go into effect.
The Department of Justice is taking a wait-and-see approach with the new laws, but is reserving the right to file a preemption lawsuit at a future date. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole sent a memo to federal prosecutors on Aug. 29 noting that it will not make state marijuana laws or stores that sell marijuana recreationally a priority in drug enforcement.
The memo goes on to say that its priorities in marijuana enforcement will be preventing the use of marijuana distribution to minors, preventing criminal enterprises from profiting off marijuana sales, preventing trafficking of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is illegal and preventing marijuana sales from being used as a cover for the sale of other illegal drugs.
“The department is … committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent and rational way,” Cole said in the memo.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said the Department of Justice’s stance is positive for Colorado citizens.
“We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughtful approach it has taken. Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law,” Hickenlooper said in a statement issued Aug. 29.