Obama’s war authorization request against ISIS in limbo, even with Democrats

Reuters / Stringer
Republicans and Democrats are equally critical of President Barack Obama’s request for military authorization against the Islamic State, which will receive its first hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

Giving testimony to the Committee will be Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. The resolution proposed by President Obama in February would grant a three-year time frame for the campaign against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) and repeal the 2002 authorization used for the Iraq war. It would also grant permission to continue the maintenance of 3,000 troops already on the ground, and the campaign of airstrikes in Iraq that were extended to Syria.

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The resolution we’ve submitted...does not call for the deployment of US ground forces to Iraq or Syria,” Obama said in February. “It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq…as I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL.”

Republicans, however, have said they would like to see a full-scale military campaign against IS before signing an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

"This AUMF, hardly anybody supports it that I know of," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) told Reuters.

The panel's chairman, Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), said he plans one or two more hearings. However, without support from Democrats, he is unsure how the authorization would move ahead.

Libertarian and progressive anti-war members want no intervention, and Democrats who do approve the use of force would like it limited in geography, length, and scope.

Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, does not support Obama's plan as proposed.

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Both lawmakers and aides have said they expect it will be months, if ever, before the full House and Senate vote.

"Time is not on our side," Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a leading advocate for a new AUMF, told Reuters.

"The longer we go into this conflict without a resolution, the more members become comfortable with the status quo and failure to act...that would be an appalling result," he said.

A White House official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity said the Obama administration is open to reasonable adjustments that can gather bipartisan support, but that it is up to Congress to pass a new authorization.

Obama began his military campaign against IS in August 2014, using the 2002 war powers authorization used for the Iraq war. The White House indicated in February that the president doesn’t need new authorization to continue operations, although congressional members did raise questions about Obama overstepping his constitutional authority with his use of the 2002 war powers.