Pelosi: Congress should act now on ISIS war powers

Pelosi: Congress should act now on ISIS war powers
© Greg Nash

Congress should act immediately on President Obama's request for new use of force powers in the fight against Islamic militants, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

“The ball is definitely in our court to take up this issue,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “There should be an authorization for the use of military force as we go forward. It's long overdue.”

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The remarks were a rebuke of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who earlier this week called Obama's war powers request “irresponsible” and urged the president to “start over” with a fresh proposal. 

“The president's request for an authorization of the use of military force calls for less authority than he has today. I just think, given the fight that we're in, it's irresponsible,” Boehner said Tuesday. “This is why the president, frankly, should withdraw the authorization of use of military force and start over.”

Pelosi rejected that idea, suggesting the Republicans are simply passing blame for Congress's inaction on the issue. First GOP leaders wanted to wait until November's elections had passed, she noted, and then they pushed Obama to offer an initial framework. Both of those conditions have now been met, and if Republicans don't like the terms, Pelosi argued, they should change them.

“The White House put a very clear authorization on the table for us to act upon, for Congress to work its will,” she said. “So the idea that it should be after the election — it's well after the election — [and] that the initiative should come from the White House — it has.

“Every timeline and requirement that the Speaker has asked for has happened,” she added. “Now it's up to us.”

Unveiled in February, Obama's resolution, known as an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), is designed to set the terms of the administration's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are opposed to the measure.

The Republican critics contend the measure is too restrictive, tying the hands of the Pentagon and threatening national security. Democratic opponents maintain it's too broad, granting too much power to the military and threatening another entrenched ground war in the Middle East.

As the AUMF debate has faded from the headlines, ISIS forces have gained steam, taking the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the Syrian city of Palmyra in recent days. 

Pelosi suggested those setbacks should light a new fire under Congress to take up the AUMF in search of a better strategy for combating ISIS. 

“How could it be that all of this is happening and Congress has refused to have this conversation on the floor of the House?,” she asked.