Cheney visits GOP, blames Obama

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday told House Republicans that the United States took its eye off the terror threat during President Obama’s watch.

Cheney, who has repeatedly slammed Obama on terrorism since leaving office, told Republicans they shouldn’t let their guard down on terrorism, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said.

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His appearance at the House GOP’s weekly conference meeting was notable, coming a day ahead of Obama’s address to the nation on the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Cheney remains a divisive figure in politics, with many people blaming him for the unpopular War in Iraq.

He’s more popular with conservatives, and House Republicans said they valued getting his opinions.

“He has a great history with foreign policy," Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said. "He was giving us a lay of the land, and telling us what he feels the threat could turn in to.”

Mullin said Cheney's remarks at the closed-door meeting focused on the ISIS threat.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Cheney described ISIS as “very dangerous” and warned that, under Obama the U.S is seen as “weak around the world."

Cheney did not weigh in on whether Congress should vote on authorizing use of force against ISIS, Thornberry said.

Cheney's visit comes the same day congressional leaders will meet at the White House with President Obama over his strategy for dealing with ISIS. Congress is wrestling with whether it should vote to authorize a broader military campaign against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.

After the meeting, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) repeatedly dodged questions about whether putting U.S. boots on the ground should be an option. He mentioned that he wants to see a “strategy” from Obama a dozen times.

“What I’m hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS and destroys it. ...” Boehner said at a news conference. “We have a very serious problem and what we need is a strategy. And until there’s a strategy, there’s no need to talk about specifics.”

The Speaker said lawmakers can’t decide whether Congress will vote to authorize the use-of-force against ISIS until they hear from Obama. Boehner made no mention of Cheney during the roughly 10-minute press conference, though the vice president’s warning resonated with many rank-and-file members.

Cheney said “the country’s under great threat and without strong and decisive action the country will be under even more threat,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Cheney’s message came at a critical moment as the GOP decides whether to go down the path of interventionism or isolationism.

“Hopefully it sticks with a lot of my colleagues, who, y’know, have kind of had this creep toward isolationism in the Congress lately,” Kinzinger told reporters. “Hopefully this will be an awakening that we have to be very strong and very serious.”

The GOP meeting was held at the Capital Hill Club, where the leadership holds gatherings, when they are political in nature, aides said.

Recent polls suggest there is public support for military strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Tuesday's conference meeting is the first since Congress returned to Washington after a five-week summer recess. In addition to addressing the ISIS threat, lawmakers will have to pass a funding bill to avert a government shutdown and temporarily renew the charter for the Export-Import Bank, among other items.

— This story was updated at 11:35 a.m.