President Barack Obama meets with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., in the White House about ISIL, June 18, 2014.

President Barack Obama meets with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., in the White House about ISIL, June 18, 2014. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Islamic State Dominates the Post-Recess Conversation in Congress

Congress is unlikely to vote on authorization for broad war powers in Iraq and Syria ahead of the midterms, but the deepening debate could shape U.S. policy for years to come. By Molly O’Toole

Congress returned to Washington on Monday to face the myriad foreign policy and national security challenges that stacked up during the August recess. At the top of the pile is a possible plan for a U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State that would undoubtedly extend beyond the borders of Iraq and possibly into the next administration.

Congress has just 12 working days left until the November midterm elections, and there’s still the matter of passing a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Sept. 30.

On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will head to the White House for a foreign policy meeting with President Barack Obama to preview his strategy to ultimately defeat the Islamic State. That same day, House Armed Services Committee members expect a closed-door briefing on Ukraine and the Islamic State by officials from the Defense Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the intelligence community, according to House Armed Services spokesman Claude Chafin.

On Wednesday, Obama will present his plan for combating the Islamic State to the American people in a televised address. In announcing the address on NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday, the president said he does not intend to ask Congress for permission for “going on some offense,” but believes it is important for the public and Congress to have “buy-in” to the plan to defeat the Islamic State.

“I'm confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people,” he said. “But I do think it's important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy-in, to debate it, and that's why we've been consulting with Congress throughout.”

On Thursday, the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., plans to introduce what has been billed as a new strategy to defeat the Islamic State at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing next Tuesday on “U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testifying. That same day, Secretary of State John Kerry will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a “Hearing to Press Obama Administration for ISIS Strategy.”

The following day, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen will testify before the House Homeland Security Committee on the “Worldwide Threat to the Homeland.”

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee will receive a closed-door briefing on Tuesday and Thursday, which is not uncommon, but presumably threats from the Islamic State will play heavily. The House Intelligence Committee is holding similar briefings Monday and Thursday.

Several lawmakers have pledged to introduce legislation upon their return on the authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State. These would join five other measures, already introduced, that seek to address the president’s war powers authority. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said he’d introduce a measure to authorize force against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations, and also companion legislation to a bill introduced in January to reform the War Powers Resolution. He introduced his legislation for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and his companion legislation to the War Powers Consultation Act, on Monday.

“For far too long the Obama administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat,” Wolf said. “We cannot continue operating on outdated authorities passed 13 years ago.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., filed a joint resolution Monday that would provide authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with the flexibility to allow for American boots on the ground but not "a recurring military presence in the implying of an American Army." He said he believes the president already has the authority, but that his resolution would clearly resolve the disagreement about legalities of such action. 

"I describe [the Islamic State] as a snake," Nelson said on the Senate floor on Monday. "If the head of the snake is in Syria, which it is, a lot of their organization, a lot of their leadership is there, then we ought to go after the snake where the head is. And decapitate the snake."

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also introduced a resolution Monday for a new AUMF, specifically against the Islamic State. The resolution would allow the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force to protect and defend national security of the United States against the threat posed by [the Islamic State] and any successor terrorist organizations," Inhofe said. The president "perhaps" has that authority currently, he said, "but we have got to take away the doubt that's out there."

More than 100 members of Congress, from both chambers and both parties, Boehner included, have demanded that the president seek authorization from Congress. Others, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are in rare agreement with each other and the president that he doesn’t need congressional permission, but they also argue he should present a strategy to Congress and the American people to garner full support.

But for all the briefings and meetings and strong statements on using the Islamic State threat as an opportunity to reform the Bush-era laws that still guide the president’s use of U.S. military force, lawmakers and aides don’t expect—or necessarily want—a vote. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.