McConnell fast-tracks Graham's ISIS war bill

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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee Spending bill delay raises risk of partial government shutdown support GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (R-Ky.) fast-tracked a wide-ranging authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Trump formally sends Pompeo nomination to Senate GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (R-S.C.) to the Senate calendar on Thursday.

The procedural move lets the bill skip over the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDem Iraq War vets renew AUMF push on 15th anniversary of war Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support Senate, Trump clash over Saudi Arabia 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 KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump Two-year defense spending smooths the way to a ready military 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 FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSteyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Flake: I'd back impeaching Trump if he fired Mueller 'without cause' Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success 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 MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support Senate, Trump clash over Saudi Arabia 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 UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Dem says EPA isn't cooperating on 'privacy booth' probe | Tribe, Zinke split over border wall | Greens tout support for renewables in swing states Overnight Regulation: Facebook faces new crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Whistleblower gets record SEC payout | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian | Trump bans trading in Venezuelan cryptocurrency Senate Dem: Pruitt isn’t cooperating with ‘privacy booth’ probe MORE (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Richard Blumenthal (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.