Senators skeptical of ISIS war bill’s chances

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Senators are casting early doubt that President Obama’s decision to send troops to Syria will jumpstart a long-stalled debate on authorizing the war.

“It doesn’t appear to have changed the disposition of the Foreign Relations Committee, yet,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters Tuesday. “I would hope that this would inspire us to action, but there still remain irreconcilable differences between Republicans and Democrats over what should be in an [Authorization for the Use Military Force].”

{mosads}His remarks come after the Obama administration announced it would send up to 50 special operations forces to Syria, putting U.S. boots on the ground for the first time since the start of the civil war.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), asked whether he thought lawmakers could reach an agreement on a war authorization against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said “absolutely not.”

“I think Democrats and a few Republicans have absolutely no clue as to the threats that we face,” he said. “We’re going to get attacked from Syria. That’s where the next 9/11 is coming from. After that happens, and I pray that I’m wrong, everybody will take a different view.”

The comments are a marked shift from Friday, when Democrats quickly pounced on President Obama’s decision, suggesting the escalation could reignite a debate on authorizing the war.

Lawmakers have struggled for months to overcome wide divisions on a war bill. The issue has created splits between and within the Republican and Democratic parties.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, suggested Tuesday that a new war bill isn’t needed — at least for the moment.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, I believe the administration has the authorities to do what they’re doing against ISIS,” he said. “I don’t see that this changes that.”

The Foreign Relations Committee is expected to get briefed on Syria, including how the administration plans to use the special operations forces, this week.  

Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said earlier this year that they would try find a path forward, but committee members have been frank about the lack of progress.

Asked about his talks with Corker, Cardin said Tuesday that “I think there’s been a recognition that it would be extremely challenging to get an AUMF passed in Congress that could be signed by the president. First it would be very difficult to get an AUMF through Congress.”

A proposal that the administration submitted to lawmakers earlier this year sparked concerns from both parties over language banning any “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who called the proposal unviable — suggested the onus is on Obama to submit a second proposal, adding that “if you expect to get any real traction on an AUMF, the president should come to Congress.”

Republicans have voiced strong criticism of Obama’s policies in Syria, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) saying that a “problem” with the AUMF debate is that Obama “hasn’t been serious about having a strategy.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Republicans are trying to have “the best of both worlds” by criticizing the administration while also not moving forward with a war bill.

Despite the increase of U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Syria, a debate over an AUMF has been largely absent in the Senate. Murphy — who has called for banning ground troops — acknowledged the uphill battle, but added that ”my critique is that we’re not even trying.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested the fight against ISIS could escalate to the point where lawmakers are “embarrassed” to not have passed an authorization.

“I will tell you this I think the momentum behind an AUMF is growing but it’s not growing because of anything in this body,” he said, adding that “I hope we will get there.”

Tags Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists Bob Corker Chris Murphy Obama Syria

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