House rejects withdrawal from ISIS war

House rejects withdrawal from ISIS war
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The House voted resoundingly Wednesday to keep troops stationed abroad fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) despite the absence of a formal congressional authorization for military action against the group.

In the first vote of its kind since the Obama administration began airstrikes 10 months ago, the House defeated a resolution requiring the president to remove troops within the next six months. The vote was 139-288.

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Nineteen Republicans and 120 Democrats voted for the measure. Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP leaders agree to consider Dec. 30 spending bill House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-Mich.) voted "present."

Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-Mass.) resolution would require removal of troops in Iraq and Syria within 30 days. But the deadline could have been pushed to the end of 2015 if the Obama administration determined it would not be safe to do so in a shorter timeframe.

The vote did not split along the usual party lines. A majority of Democrats and Republicans opposed the measure, while a smaller bipartisan coalition joined together in voting for it.

McGovern, who authored the measure with Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), said the United States shouldn’t keep deploying troops into harm’s way unless Congress formally authorizes war against ISIS.

“Either Congress needs to live up to its responsibilities and authorize this war, or by its continuing neglect and indifference our troops should be withdrawn and allowed to come home,” McGovern said.

The Obama administration has been citing the 2001 and 2002 authorizations of military force (AUMF) in Afghanistan and Iraq as the legal basis for the military campaign against the terrorist group.  

Even Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and opposed the resolution, said the use of powers approved before ISIS even existed “sets a terrible precedent.”

“We didn’t vote for perpetual war, and we need a new AUMF,” Engel said. 

But he said that voting to withdraw troops amid the escalating violence would send the wrong message. 

“That’s no way to defeat ISIS or to help the people of Iraq and Syria,” Engel said. "I understand the frustration but this is like cutting off your nose to spite your face." 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) warned that voting to withdraw U.S. troops would embolden the extremist group.

“The resolution before us today has nothing to do with an authorization for the use of military force. It is a withdrawal resolution,” Royce said. “That would be irresponsible and dangerous.”

The Obama administration began ordering troops to Iraq almost exactly one year ago, on June 16. It ordered 275 troops to provide security for the U.S. Embassy and personnel there. 

The number of troops grew to 3,550 after President Obama authorized another 450 troops last week. The troops are being deployed to train and equip the Iraqi military against ISIS.

McGovern's measure also would have stopped manned U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which began last August. There are no troops in Syria, although the administration acknowledges it has some responsibility to protect rebels fighting ISIS and the regime there. 

While Wednesday’s vote was Congress's first on war authorization for ISIS, the House has taken other votes related to the military campaign. 

The chamber voted last week to defeat an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would have prohibited funding for the campaign against ISIS after March 2016 unless Congress formally authorizes it, on a vote of 196-231.

Congress voted to authorize a $500 million train and equip program of moderate Syrian rebels last September. 

Lawmakers first suggested they would take up an authorization of military force when they returned from the midterm campaign trail. But Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerJohn Feehery: A political forest fire Trump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery MORE (R-Ohio) said that voting on war shouldn’t be in the hands of a lame-duck Congress. He also called on the White House to submit an AUMF to Congress.

The draft AUMF Obama sent to Congress in February has since stalled. Many Democrats think it is too open-ended, while Republicans view it as too constraining.

While a majority voted against the measure, Republicans said they support having a debate on the use of force.

"I think we ought to have a real AUMF debate. This is not it," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).