That's the question hanging over Washington as lawmakers consider Obama's resolution calling for an attack over Syria's use of chemical weapons.
Obama, the one-time constitutional law professor, framed his decision to consult Congress as indicative of his commitment to preserving legislative oversight of the White House.
But that declaration was an about face for a president who has chosen to ignore lawmakers on issues ranging from immigration to environmental policy. And some Republicans say Obama’s new-found spirit of cooperation was less an olive branch than blatant political posturing.
“This isn't about Obama getting permission,” one senior GOP Senate aide told the Washington Examiner. “It's about spreading the blame if stuff hits the fan in Syria. It's pretty obvious he's going to do what he wants regardless of what we say.”
Though publicly confident about winning approval from lawmakers, especially when given the backing of House Speaker John Boehner, enough resistance remains among liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans to leave the president in a tight spot. Obama still faces the prospect of being rebuffed by lawmakers at home and by much of the international community.
Obama and his surrogates have laid the foundation for striking Syria without congressional approval, as Secretary of State John Kerry said the president could order military action “no matter what Congress does.”
But then Obama would have to make the type of decision he derided as a senator or risk looking like his so-called "red line" on Syria was an empty threat.
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama said in 2007.
And a potentially more interesting debate, according to some analysts, is what Congress decides to do about funding if Obama chooses to push ahead in Syria without its approval.
“What happens if Congress declines formal authorization, and the president uses force in Syria anyway and then seeks appropriations from Congress for continuing operations in Syria?” asked Jack Goldsmith, a law professor at Harvard University and an assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush. “Such a request would put Congress in a pickle, for declining appropriations could be viewed as 'not supporting the troops in battle.'”