Dem Rep. Schiff to offer use-of-force resolution for Syria

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A top Democrat will unveil legislation this week authorizing the Obama administration to use military force in the fight against Islamic militants in the Middle East.

Even as President Obama is claiming he has the unilateral authority to go after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, argues that the White House needs the explicit approval of Congress to launch what "amounts to war."

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“The President has announced an offensive against ISIL that amounts to war," Schiff said in a statement Monday, using an alternate name for the group. “But Congress alone has the authority to do so within the Constitution." 

Schiff's proposal, to be introduced Tuesday, would authorize military operations against ISIS for 18 months, while sunsetting a 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force over the same span. It would also immediately sunset the authorization for force in Iraq that Congress passed in 2002.

Speaker John Boehner has also avoided calls for a vote on use-of-force authority. Although the Ohio Republican said last week that such a vote "would be in the nation's interest," he suggested a specific request would have to come from the White House before he'd act on it.

"Normally in such a case — I've been through this a few times over the 24 years that I've been here — the president ... would request that support and would supply the wording of a resolution to authorize this force," Boehner told reporters Thursday. "And, at this point in time, we've not gotten that request and we've not seen that language."

Schiff disagrees, arguing Congress should take a proactive role in the debate. 

"Congress need not wait for, to be asked to approve such an authorization; it is our Constitutional obligation to approve or reject the use of force, and we must not adjourn without a vote," he said.

Top Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have said Obama has all the authority he needs to take on the ISIS forces without a congressional vote — at least for now.

"Whether we take a vote or not, we're not at that point because we believe the president has the authority," Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

A growing chorus of rank-and-file Democrats — joined by some conservative Republicans — are pressing both the White House and congressional leaders for a larger role in authorizing use of force.

Hoyer predicted over the weekend that Congress would take up that debate after the midterm elections.

“I think, at some point in time, when we come back from the elections ... there will be a consideration of a larger authorization for the use of force," Hoyer said in an interview on C-SPAN’s "Newsmakers" program, which aired Sunday.