WASHINGTON - As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. Legislators left Washington 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Every day brings new U.S.-led bombardments on Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria. But Washington is unusually quiet, as lawmakers campaign across the country ahead of midterm elections in November.
House Speaker John Boehner says President Barack Obama does have authority to order military strikes against Islamic State, also known as ISIL. But he says Obama should bring Congress back to request a broad authorization from lawmakers.
“The president has not done that. He believes he has the authority under existing resolutions. I think he does have the authority to do it. But the point I have been making is that this is a proposal the Congress ought to consider,” said Boehner speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
That point was echoed weeks ago by the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez.
“Temporary and targeted air strikes in Iraq and Syria fall under the president’s powers as commander-in-chief. But if the military campaign lasts for an extended period of time, which I gather it will, it is my belief Congress will need to approve an ISIL-specific authorization for the use of military force,” said Menendez.
Earlier this month, lawmakers approved one component of the president’s military plan: equipping and training moderate Syrian rebels. The administration says Congress is free to do more on its own, as Secretary of State John Kerry recently reminded lawmakers.
“Do it. Pass it. We would love to have you do it. But we are not going to get stuck in a situation when we have the authority of not exercising our authority to do what we believe we need to do to protect the country,” said Kerry.
But absent a formal presidential request, Congress is unlikely to reconvene until after the November elections.
Meanwhile, the air campaign continues.
“Along with France, we have conducted over 200 air strikes in Iraq against ISIL and in support of Iraqi forces. With our Arab partners, we have conducted 43 air strikes in Syria,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The Pentagon chief noted that a growing number of NATO allies announced their intention to participate in the effort to weaken and ultimately destroy the Islamic State.