Speaker Ryan expresses support for ISIS war authorization

Speaker Ryan expresses support for ISIS war authorization
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOvernight Defense: Dunford expected to finish Joint Chiefs term | House lawmakers pushing for Yemen vote | Pentagon says a few hundred troops leaving border Ocasio-Cortez: Paul Ryan got called a 'genius' when he was elected at 28, I get accused of being 'a fraud' Meadows looks to make his move MORE (R-Wis.) on Tuesday expressed support for considering an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even though he said President Obama can wage his military campaign without it.

"I do believe we have legal authorization under the 2001 [AUMF]. I do also believe that it would be a good sign for American foreign policy to have a new one updating our AUMF to declare our mission with respect to ISIS," he said at a breakfast hosted by Politico. 

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"I think that'd be good for putting America in an offensive posture," he added. 

The Obama administration maintains it has the authority it needs under the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda in the Afghanistan War, but some lawmakers say it's a legal stretch and that Congress is abdicating its responsibility by not declaring war against ISIS. 

Ryan's remarks could signal hope for members who have been pressing to pass a new measure to authorize the U.S.'s military campaign against ISIS, which formally began last August. 

Reps. Scott RigellEdward (Scott) Scott RigellGOP rushes to embrace Trump GOP lawmaker appears in Gary Johnson ad Some in GOP say Trump has gone too far MORE (R-Va.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis Welch How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit Dem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma Dems warn party message lacks punch MORE (D-Vt.) last week introduced a war powers measure in the House as a companion bill to one introduced by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWhile G-20 Summit was promising for US- China trade relations, Congress must still push for an exclusion process Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails Overnight Defense: What the midterms mean for defense panels | Pompeo cancels North Korea meeting | Trump eyes Kim summit in early 2019 | Pentagon drops name for border mission MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ Tim Scott: Stop giving court picks with 'questionable track records on race' a Senate vote Flake stands firm on sending a ‘message to the White House’ on Mueller MORE (R-Ariz.).

"I think we have a new Speaker that's in part why I have renewed optimism that we can advance this now," Rigell told reporters last week. 

"I take Speaker Ryan at his word that the will of the House will be done, and so I think I really do believe that there is a building momentum on this matter," he added.

Rigell and other proponents of passing an AUMF say the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino should spur lawmakers to action, but there are major obstacles in the way.

When the administration proposed an AUMF last year, Republicans said it would tie the hands of military commanders, while Democrats worried it was not restrictive enough — a seemingly unbridgeable divide. 

Republicans have also said they would not endorse a war without hearing and agreeing with the administration's plan to defeat the terrorist group. 

Also, many lawmakers on both aisles are wary of taking a vote that could come back to haunt them, such as with a 2002 authorization for the Iraq War. 

Ryan said he's discussed the issue with several committee chairmen, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). 

"[There's] plenty of members in our caucus who think that this is a debate we should have and I agree it's a debate worth having," he said.   

"The question is, which we do not now have an answer to, can we write an AUMF that the president will sign where he's not going to handcuff the next president, and can we get consensus on how to do that? That's what we're trying to figure out right now." 

Ryan said he hoped the president would be willing to shift from his previous AUMF proposal, given recent ISIS attacks. 

"I think what the president sent us handcuffed the next president. I think the president put too many constrictions on the military...and so, can we put a new AUMF to show that America is on offense in the war on terror? I think we can and I think we should," he said. 

However, he pointed to yet another hurdle — a provision in the recently passed 2016 defense policy bill requiring the administration to present a plan to defeat ISIS to Congress. 

"So we're waiting for the president to present a plan to defeat ISIS, and so there's a case to be made, that, let's see what the plan to defeat ISIS is, and that is a good time to then consider whether ... it'd be in our interest to have a new AUMF to accompany a new strategy to defeat ISIS." 

"Because the strategy that we have right now — it's not working."