Obama readies war powers pitch

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The White House is poised to send a formal request to Congress asking for a new authorization to use military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The request, expected within the next week, would come days after ISIS released a video showing a caged Jordanian pilot being burned alive — a further display of the group’s brutality that one Republican lawmaker described Wednesday as a “game-changer.”

{mosads}Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would be “disappointed” if President Obama did not make the request very soon.

“I do think it’s forthcoming,” Corker said in a short interview with The Hill. “I would be very surprised — disappointed actually — if it’s not here by the end of next week. And maybe sooner.” 

Sending an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) to Congress would open a complicated debate for the White House on war policy.

Obama has repeatedly said he will not send combat troops to Iraq to fight ISIS, even as he has increased the number of U.S. military advisers in the country.

But the White House also does not want the military’s hands tied in Iraq, and is likely to oppose any language ruling out the use of ground troops.

Democrats say any AUMF should contain a time limit for the authorization and also ban the use of U.S. ground troops in combat in Iraq and Syria.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said he’d “have trouble supporting” any AUMF that included the option of boots on the ground, and that most House Democrats feel the same way.

“I would bet it’s a significant majority [of Democrats] would not vote for it,” Yarmuth said Wednesday.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) is another critic, saying he’s “very troubled” by the notion of new boots on the ground in the Middle East.

“I’m as outraged as anybody by the atrocities by ISIS — this latest murder is just unconscionable,” he added. “But we need to make sure that whatever response we come up with is one that is effective, and I’m not convinced that another all-out war is the way to go.”

Many Republicans would oppose restrictions and want an AUMF that aligns with a muscular U.S. response to ISIS.

Congressional calls for stronger action against ISIS have typically followed the group’s execution of Western hostages. Since July, the group has beheaded three Americans, two Britons and two people from Japan.

The group is holding an American woman hostage. The administration has not released information on the humanitarian aid worker as part of an effort to protect her.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday there has been progress on developing AUMF language “that could earn bipartisan support.” 

“I would anticipate we would have more news on an AUMF relatively soon,” he added.

Republicans on Wednesday said they were eager to debate the White House’s strategy against ISIS. They’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the administration for not sending the AUMF request, and have pointed out that Obama promised to do so at a White House meeting with Capitol Hill leaders on Jan. 13.

“When we met with the president in the White House, he said it would be coming soon. His actions speak much more strongly than his words,” Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday. 

Other lawmakers said the killing of the Jordanian pilot would galvanize support for a deal.

“It clarifies what was clear before, which is there’s going to be overwhelming congressional support for this,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), the Democrat most loudly advocating for a new AUMF. “The president is going to find a strong, strong supermajority of members of both houses in both parties who want to do this.” 

“I’ll have to see what the president says, but certainly what happened in Jordan and what happened in Japan … has shown that we’re dealing with one of the most heinous groups that we’ve seen, and we need to take action for the protection of humanity,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). 

“I’m open to it,” he added, referring to the troops-on-the-ground option.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom” the killing of the pilot must be a “game-changer” for Obama.

“Not the degrading of ISIS, not the containing of ISIS, but the destroying and crushing of ISIS has got to be the first and foremost goal,” he said.

The Obama administration has used an AUMF approved just after 9/11 as the legal basis for action against ISIS, even as the president has called for it to be replaced.

Obama has authorized the deployment of 3,100 advisers to Iraq, and could order as many as 1,000 more to the Middle East to train moderate Syrian rebels.

A U.S.-led coalition has also conducted 2,264 strikes in Iraq and Syria, killing more than 6,000 ISIS fighters. 

An AUMF would give Congress the opportunity to explicitly approve those efforts, as well as allow lawmakers to debate whether restrictions should be placed on the use of force.

Senate Armed Services Committee members are also calling on the administration to expedite delayed U.S. shipments of military equipment to Jordan — a request that came directly from King Abdullah II, who was visiting the Capitol when the news of the pilot’s death broke.

Republicans have criticized the president’s strategy against ISIS as weak, and some have called for the deployment of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria. 

Jordan and other countries impacted by ISIS “will look to us for leadership but we haven’t seen the kind of leadership we need,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), an Intelligence Committee member who had planned to sit down with the Jordanian king Wednesday before his meeting was nixed. 

“Maybe this will be a precipitating event over at the White House,” he said. 

Mike Lillis contributed to this story.

Tags Bob Corker Dan Coats ISIS John Barrasso John Yarmuth Tim Kaine United States War

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