Suppose the Senate approves a resolution authorizing an attack against the Assad regime, but the House disapproves. This a plausible scenario; indeed, it may be the most likely one.
In that event, President Obama might well proceed with an attack, reasoning this way:
I consulted with, and fully engaged, both chambers of Congress. The Senate thought I should launch an attack; the House thought I shouldn’t. I concur with the Senate.
This approach would be consistent with Obama’s position, and the position of other recent presidents, that there is no legal obligation to obtain congressional approval of military action like that which Obama contemplates.
In other words, Senate approval might give Obama all of the cover he thinks he needs.
It’s possible that Obama will attack Syria even if both the Senate and House disapprove. But then he would lack any cover, so it seems unlikely that he would attack in this scenario.
Senate approval seems likely, so there is talk of a filibuster. Rand Paul has raised that prospect.
If he and others actually carry out an extended filibuster, or if 60 votes can’t be garnered to end a more conventional “constructive filibuster,” I think Obama would be justified in proceeding without the Senate, reasoning this way: “I sought the Senate’s opinion, but I’m not getting it.”
Filibustering against an up-or-down vote on military action is a bad idea. Let’s hope Rand Paul can restrain himself.