McConnell fast-tracks Graham's ISIS war bill

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The push to authorize the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is getting a boost in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) fast-tracked a wide-ranging authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senators buck spending bill over Export-Import Bank Pelosi pans latest GOP stopgap spending offer MORE (R-S.C.) to the Senate calendar on Thursday.

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The procedural move lets the bill skip over the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate rejects push to block Saudi arms sale Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama GOP senators: Obama rebuffed negotiations on 9/11 bill MORE (R-Tenn.), who chairs the committee, has suggested that a new AUMF was unlikely to happen and that President Obama currently has the legal authority he needs.

Graham's legislation hasn't been scheduled for floor time, but the South Carolina Republican said Thursday that a debate should happen "as soon as possible."

"Everybody needs to stand up and be counted here," he told reporters. "If the Democrats don't want to give this to Obama, then stand up and tell me why. ... There may be some people running for president as Republicans who don't want this. I would be astonished that anybody seeking to be commander in chief wouldn't want this power."  

But the South Carolina Republican, who ended his presidential campaign last month, added that he hasn't spoken to McConnell about trying to get floor time.

The Republican leader has previously expressed concerns about taking up a war bill that would limit Obama, or his successor, from being able to go after terrorist organizations.

"I think an AUMF, an authorization to use military force, that ties the president's hands behind his back is not something I would want to do to a new president, who's going to have to clean up this mess,” he told ABC's "This Week."

Graham's proposal wouldn't place a geographic limit on U.S. military operations against ISIS, with the South Carolina Republican saying it would allow the administration to fight the terror group "wherever, whenever, and however."

It also wouldn't have an expiration date and would not prohibit the president from placing boots on the ground to fight ISIS.

Corker said Thursday that if a war bill can get broad consensus and is "constructive" in defeating ISIS then he might "take that up for consideration."

"The challenge remains that any new AUMF must have enough bipartisan support to become law, show that our country is united over confronting ISIS, and ensure the president retains the necessary authority to defeat ISIS," he added.

Corker, who has not officially signed on to the war bill, said that he has "been in constant communication" with McConnell on the issue and "there is no daylight between us on what would be needed to actually take up and pass an AUMF.”

Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineKaine participates in Native American pow wow Sunday shows preview: Both sides gear up for debate Longtime Clinton aide Reines playing Trump in mock debates: reports MORE (D-Va.), a vocal advocate for Congress to pass new legislation, said Thursday that "it looks like the body is finally waking up to the reality of the threat."

"We owe it to the thousands of troops deployed in this dangerous mission to craft an authorization that expresses our support for their sacrificial service," he added.

Kaine introduced a narrower AUMF proposal last year with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTop GOP chairmen investigating foreign visa program Pence rallies GOP before final stretch Libertarian nominee top choice among veterans MORE (R-Ariz.). The Virginia Democrat would likely use a potential debate on Graham's proposal to push his legislation.

The broad nature of Graham's proposal would likely face pushback from Democrats and some libertarian-leaning Republicans.

Democrats have voiced strong skepticism over an AUMF that doesn't explicitly rule out ground troops over concerns about being ensnared in another Middle East war.

Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphySaudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Dems to McConnell: Bring up Trump tax bill Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (D-Conn.) said that while he welcomes a debate on a war bill, the wide-ranging legislation would "repeat the deadly, costly mistakes of the past."

"This resolution is a total rewrite of the war powers clause of the United States Constitution. Let's be clear about that," he added. "It is essentially a declaration of international martial law, a sweeping transfer of military power to the president that will allow him or her to send U.S. troops almost anywhere in the world for almost any reason with absolutely no limitations."

Murphy, as well as Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallTensions rise over judicial nominees Dem senator wants to change nomination rules amid Garland fight Dem senators back Navajo lawsuit against EPA MORE (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Richard BlumenthalRichard Blumenthal5 questions about the Yahoo hack Schumer rips 'disappointing' 9/11 bill veto, pledges override Dems call for better birth control access for female troops MORE (D-Conn.), tried to get a ban on the use of ground troops against ISIS included in an annual policy bill last year.

The administration suggested Thursday that while Obama backs Congress passing an ISIS-specific war bill and will review and work with lawmakers on Graham's proposal, it's concerned about the broad nature of the legislation.

"We certainly welcome Republicans taking an interest in specifically authorizing the continued use of military force against [ISIS]," said Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman.

"However, the President has also been clear from the beginning that we will not be engaging in the type of armed conflict that we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that remains the case."

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.