Lawmakers push for ISIS war measure in defense bill

Lawmakers push for ISIS war measure in defense bill
© Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to use an annual defense policy bill to force Congress to debate an authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The lawmakers, who have filed amendments to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), gathered Thursday to again urge their colleagues to debate the issue on the House floor.


“For too long, Congress has been missing in action,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told reporters at a press conference. “It’s unacceptable that while our brave service men and women face snipers and mortar rounds, Congress cannot even muster the courage to declare the war that they are fighting.”

Lee was joined Thursday by Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (Vt.) and John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field MORE (Calif.), and Republican Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Scott RigellEdward (Scott) Scott RigellSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat GOP rushes to embrace Trump MORE (Va.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).

The latest call for a war measure comes after President Obama sent hundreds more troops to Iraq and Syria, raising concerns over mission creep — a gradual shift in mission commitments during a campaign — among some critics of his strategy.

A third U.S. service member recently died in combat while fighting ISIS, and an Army captain has also sued the president for waging a war without an authorization.

Lee filed an amendment that would repeal the 2001 authorization for military force the Obama administration has said gives it the authority to fight ISIS.

McGovern filed an amendment that would prohibit funding for deploying troops to Iraq and Syria after April 2017 unless a new authorization is passed. His amendment is co-sponsored by Jones, Garamendi, Lee and Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoOcasio-Cortez after Yoho confrontation: 'I won't be so nice next time' Overnight Defense: US, India to share satellite data | Allegations of racism at Virginia Military Institute | Navy IDs 2 killed in Alabama plane crash AOC: Speech to 'expose' Yoho part of effort to break 'chain of abuse' MORE (R-Fla.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

Rigell, meanwhile, submitted an amendment for an authorization that would end after three years and allow sending troops to fight ISIS "as the president determines necessary and appropriate." His amendment is co-sponsored by Welch.

It’s far from certain the strategy of attaching the issue to the NDAA will work. Past attempts to do so have been blocked in the House Rules Committee on points of order.

“This is the vehicle to be able to debate that,” said McGovern, a member of the Rules Committee. “If they block it, we have an appropriations bill. If we get frustrated there, some of us will file a privilege resolution, and we will force a vote on the floor that way. But we’re not going away, because this is too important.”

Republicans and Democrats may support different strategies to fight ISIS, the lawmakers said, but that doesn’t mean the issue shouldn’t come up for a vote.

It’s Congress’s constitutional responsibility to do so, they added. 

“It’s easier for the Republican majority to let Obama have blood on his hands than to give us the opportunity that we’re asking for to share the blood of our men and women in uniform,” Jones said. “But right now, the politics of this is why I don’t think we’ve had a debate on this, and I’m not sure we’re going to have a debate.”