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Lawmakers urge Obama to consult them on Iraq

Rep. Barbara Lee and a Virginia Republican have lead 78 other House members in urging President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee, D-Oakland, and Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., last summer led independent letters calling on Obama to consult Congress before taking military action in Syria. Now they’ve joined together on a letter sent to the president Thursday.

“We do not believe intervention could be either quick or easy,” they wrote. “And we doubt it would be effective in meeting either humanitarian or strategic goals, and that it could very well be counter-productive.”

The lawmakers called for a political settlement involving all segments of the Iraqi population.

“As you consider options for U.S. intervention, we write to urge respect for the constitutional requirements for using force abroad,” they wrote. “The Constitution vests in Congress the power and responsibility to authorize offensive military action abroad. The use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize.”

Besides Rigell, other Republicans signing the letter included Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Justin Amash, R-Mich.; Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.;

Besides Lee, other Bay Area members signing the letter included Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

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Lawmakers demand Obama consult them on Syria

Three Northern California House Democrats have signed onto a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to seek Congressional authorization for any military strike against Syria.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, are among 18 Democrats and 98 Republicans who’ve signed onto the letter drafted and circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

“While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets,” the letter says. “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Other California members who’ve signed Rigell’s letter include Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay; Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville; and John Campbell, R-Irvine.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent their own letter to the president today urging that he consult Congress.

And House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Obama today urging the president to “personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy.”

UPDATE @ 11:54 A.M. THURSDAY: More Bay Area House members have signed onto Rep. Barbara Lee’s similar letter.

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New bipartisan bill takes aim at gun trafficking

Firearms trafficking would become a federal crime, and “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others barred from buying guns on their own would face 20 years behind bars, under a new bipartisan House bill.

H.R. 452, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 introduced Monday by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Scott Rigell, R-Va.; and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., aims to address concerns of law enforcement officials who’ve testified before Congress in the wake of December’s schoolhouse shooting massacre in Connecticut.

The officials had told lawmakers that a dedicated firearms trafficking statute would help them combat the flow of thousands of firearms to violent criminals, international drug cartels, and other dangerous people. This proposal was included in recommendations made last month by President Obama and Vice President Biden for legislative action to prevent gun violence.

The authors held a news conference today on Capitol Hill, backed by a phalanx of uniformed law enforcement officers.

“We’re first and foremost here today as fellow Americans,” Rigell said. “This bill wisely tackles the deficiencies that exist right now in federal law.”

“As a lifetime member of the NRA, as a firearm owner and as a father … I’ve got a problem with people who break the law with firearms because it inevitably puts pressure on my rights,” he said, yet four of 10 straw purchasers face no meaningful consequence.

“It’s really great to have an NRA member standing with us on this important reform,” Maloney said.

The bill goes first to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. Goodlatte had the NRA’s endorsement last year (as did Meehan, but not Rigell); it’ll be interesting to see how he handles this bill.