Go to war or go home: House resolution to force debate on fight against ISIS

Reuters / Stringer
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to force a debate on the war against ISIS – by threatening to bring the US troops home by the end of the year. Congress has approved funds for the conflict for months, while dodging discussion of its status.

Calling Congress the “poster child for cowardice”, Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) proposed a “concurrent resolution” on Thursday, seeking to force a debate in the House by June 23 on whether to officially declare war, or give President Obama until the end of the year to pull US troops out of Iraq and Syria.

The resolution is co-sponsored by representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

McGovern proposed the resolution citing the mounting cost of the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), that military officials said might last “a generation or more.”

If we are going to invest a generation or more of our blood and our treasure in this war, then shouldn’t Congress at least debate whether or not to authorize it?” McGovern asked on the House floor.

He cited figures from the National Priorities Project, an organization based in his district, indicating that every hour of military operations against the IS cost the US taxpayers $3.42 million every hour.

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

Nearly every single penny of this war chest was borrowed money, put on the national credit card – provided as so-called emergency funds that don’t have to be accounted for or subject to budget caps like all other funds,” McGovern argued.

Every day this Congress is forced to make tough, serious, painful decisions to deprive our domestic economy and priorities of the resources they need to succeed. But somehow, there’s always money for more wars.”

The current policy in Iraq and Syria was just more of the same, he charged, without a beginning, middle and end. Defeating the IS would require a “complicated and more imaginative response."

READ MORE: Kerry, Carter, Dempsey want war with ISIS, Senate isn’t convinced

The White House and the Pentagon have done their duty, McGovern said, informing Congress last June when operations against the IS began, and requesting an Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in February.

Instead of approving or rejecting it, however, the Republican leadership of both the House and the Senate has criticized the proposal without offering an alternative.

If this House doesn’t have the stomach to carry out its Constitutional duty to debate and authorize this latest war, then we should bring our troops home,” McGovern said. “If the cowardly Congress can go home each night to their families and loved ones, then our brave troops should receive the same privilege.”

Be for it or against it, but have the debate,” added Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican representing the district hosting the Fort Bragg military base. “It is our responsibility, not the president's responsibility, to initiate these AUMFs.”

A similar resolution McGovern had proposed in July 2014 received overwhelming bipartisan support, passing with a 370-40 vote. The House Republican leadership has refused to bring the White House’s AUMF to a vote in the 10 months since operations against Islamic State began.