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Juan Williams: Congress ducks its duty on ISIS vote

Greg Nash

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ohio) said recently he would not even ask his colleagues to vote on an authorization to use military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) until next year, when the new Congress is seated.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE told the New York Times, “Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this.”

Then last week he changed his position, telling ABC News he is willing to call the House into session to debate the U.S. military action to destroy the terrorists. But the Speaker said it is up to President Obama to request a Congressional vote authorizing military action.

Meanwhile, the Speaker said it was wrong of President Obama to try to beat the terrorists without putting American military combat “boots on the ground” to win the current fight.

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Huh? That makes no sense. When did House Republicans start taking orders from President Obama?

The hard fact is the GOP House is responsible for its own failure to act on the central question of authorizing the U.S. military to put combat boots on the ground.

“Since when do we sit around waiting, using the excuse ‘He didn’t ask’?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked reporters last week. “No, if you want to have an authorization that has any constraints on the president, you don’t wait for him to write it.”

Instead, some Republican House members are busy campaigning for reelection by appealing to voters’ fears about the ISIS threat.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican, told his constituents that his fellow House Republicans are sharing political complaints about the president with commanders in charge of the military.

"A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, 'Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let's have a resignation,’” Rep. Lamborn said. He added that any Generals who resigned in protest would "go out in a blaze of glory."

That is an overt effort to undermine civilian control of the U.S. military, which is required by the Constitution. It is outrageous. It is a purely partisan effort to win votes by playing to extremist hatred of the president.

These right-wing attacks are coming from some of the same people who condemned anyone in disagreement with any part of the Bush administration’s foreign policy as “soft on terrorism,” “unpatriotic” or worse.

Is it any wonder that Congress now has an 80 percent disapproval rating and a 12.6 approval rating, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average?

Is it any wonder that, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 51 percent of Americans would not vote to reelect their own representative, the highest figure recorded on that question in the 25-year history of the poll?

Article I of the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war. However, Congress has not made a formal declaration of war since World War II.

Since then, Authorizations for Use of Military Force or “AUMFs” have become politically expedient substitutes.

Now, the current Congress is too cowardly to even vote on that kind of nominal approval. Some say the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs that gave President Bush the authority to use the military against the perpetrators of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, respectively, are still in effect.

As my friend and Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has noted, this is ridiculous because ISIS did not exist in 2001 and 2002, so Congress could not have intended the AUMFs to apply to the group by any stretch of the imagination.

Last week, one major Western democracy did call its legislature back from a weeks-long recess to vote on the critical, time-sensitive issue of military strikes against ISIS.

That legislative body was Britain’s Parliament – not the U.S. Congress.

Congress is not absolved of responsibility just because we are in the middle of a political campaign season – especially when its members are telling us that ISIS is on the march and, in the words of Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSyria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ MORE (R-S.C.), “we need to stop them before we all get killed here at home.”

Members have a job to do right now and they are not doing it.

There are increasing signs that many Republican members in Speaker Boehner’s own caucus can no longer stomach this hypocrisy and abdication of Congress’ duty.

“The president should have come to Congress and still should come to Congress for authorization,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who used to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told BuzzFeed.

“Everybody can come back at a moment’s notice. Everyone is in the districts…We can all go back [to D.C. for a vote] and I hope we do,” she added.

"If you can’t make the argument for or against an AUMF, and actually justify your vote for or against an AUMF, you have absolutely no business being in Congress," Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican and Tea Party favorite, told the Washington Post.

“This is why we come to Congress...It's shameful if anyone here in Congress decides that they would rather leave it up to the president by himself to determine if we should actually be doing something in that region of the world." Labrador said.

Principled Republicans like Ros-Lehtinen and Labrador are in the minority within their party.

Their ranks may be growing, but they are still a minority.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.