Menendez: White House war powers request will have more 'flexibility'

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the White House's proposal for war powers against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will have more "flexibility" than language approved by the committee in December.

"A good part of it is how we started off in the Foreign Relations Committee, but there is a degree for some flexibility than what the Foreign Relations Committee drafted," committee ranking member Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners GOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' MORE (D-N.J.) told reporters Monday.


He added that he had not seen "hard, fast language" but only general concepts for the proposal, which could come as early as this week.

The new resolution will likely spark a contentious debate over the U.S. strategy against the terror group. Democrats have warned against mission creep and want set limits on U.S. action, including barring the use of ground troops. But Republicans warn they will reject any language that could handcuff efforts to fight ISIS.

The authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS passed by the Foreign Relations committee under then-Chairman Menendez in December authorized the president to use military force against ISIS for up to three years. It banned U.S. troops from participating in ground combat operations except in defined circumstances. 

That version also required a report on the comprehensive strategy for the military campaign after 60 days. It sunset the 2001 authorization used against al Qaeda and associated forces in three years.

Menendez did not say how the president's expected request would provide more flexibility than the earlier ISIS war powers measure.

He acknowledged that the challenge would be attracting bipartisan support.

"So that's the rub here, to find an AUMF that can have bipartisan support, that can be narrow enough that it's not an open-ended check and prolong engagement, and open enough so it can meet the challenge of fighting ISIL," he said, using an alternate name for the group.

"Finding the balance is the challenge here," added Menendez. 

The White House is expected to send over its request by Wednesday, according to two congressional aides. 

The panel's chairman, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), said that would mark the beginning of a process allowing lawmakers to formally weigh in on the military campaign against ISIS. 

Corker said the Foreign Relations Committee would hold more hearings on the request, once it arrives.  

"People are going to have an opportunity to weigh in ... the AUMF is one of the most important votes that people make. Sending it over is just the beginning of the process," he said. 

He noted he has had serious consultations with the White House on the request. 

"The way the process is beginning is appreciated, and very soon again, the American people will be able to participate and watch this debate in live fashion," he said. 

Corker said he didn't think it would be a "long, long" process. 

"Hearings will take place, they'll be done in a timely fashion, and we'll go from there."