President Barack Obama says members of Congress, who are not in session this month, will not be left out of any major decisions on U.S. policy toward the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. Some lawmakers are calling for Congress to debate and hold a vote on any expanded military action when members return in September.
A small but bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling for Congress to debate and vote on whether or not to authorize President Obama to expand U.S. military operations against Islamic State targets in Iraq, or perhaps even across the border in Syria. One of them is Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, who spoke to VOA on Friday.
"You might know that I joined [Democratic Representatives] Jim McGovern and Barbara Lee in writing a letter to Speaker [John] Boehner asking him that we have a debate on the floor of the House and a resolution saying to the president that any expansion of our military in Iraq or any part of the country that he must come to Congress to ask for support," he said.
The administration has already authorized surveillance flights over Syria, and some Republican lawmakers are calling on the president to come up with a comprehensive strategy to not just deter the Islamic State, but to defeat the Sunni extremist group before it threatens the U.S. homeland.
Some Republicans seized on a comment the president made Thursday of not yet having a strategy to counter the Islamic militants, calling it worrisome. Obama explained that he is working out a strategy with his top military advisers and U.S. allies. He said congressional action would be premature at this point.
"We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them," he said. "At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard. But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done."
The president signaled that Congress will have plenty of time to be involved when members return on September 8. But since there are midterm congressional elections coming up in November, some members may be reluctant to cast a vote on more U.S. military action in the Middle East.
Democratic Representative Kathy Castor says, "I don't have much faith that the GOP leadership in the House will actually have a debate, notwithstanding a vote."
Congressman Jones said the U.S. Constitution requires Congress to authorize the use of the U.S. military and that Americans are weary of war after the years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Why in the world are we always trying to go into some other country and protect those people instead of protecting our own people? I am not an isolationist, but I understand one thing, when we cannot secure our own borders then we got our problems right here in America," he said.
President Obama said members of Congress will definitely need to be involved, with lawmakers needed to authorize funding for U.S. military strikes against the Islamic State.