With the public in a decidedly hawkish mood, members of Congress appear to be moving inexorably toward a debate and vote on authorizing President Obama’s plans to degrade and then obliterate the jihadist terrorists in Iraq and Syria – only just not right away.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has summoned House members back to work on Monday – a day earlier than expected – to take up the president’s request for $500 million in spending authority to arm and train Free Syrian Army rebels who are combatting ISIS forces as well as the regime of Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.
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The funding authority would be included in a $1 trillion stop-gap spending bill pending in the House that would keep the government operating through Dec. 11, beyond the start of fiscal 2015.
“Based on all the information that I’ve looked at, the Free Syrian Army has by and large been very well vetted by our intelligence officials,” Boehner said following Obama’s Wednesday night speech outlining his strategy for defeating ISIS. “Today they’re in a fight against Assad, they’re in a fight against ISIL, and they’re on a fight against another Al Qaeda affiliate in Eastern Syria, and they’re about to get run over.”
Noting that the president has made it clear that, with some minor exceptions, he “doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground,” Boehner declared that “Somebody’s boots have to be on the ground” and it looks as if it will be those of the Free Syrian Army.
But that funding authority is a small portion of Obama’s overall plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic militants who have swept across large swaths of Iraq and Syria and killing tens of thousands – including two American journalists.
Obama vowed to step up airstrikes against ISIS forces over Iraq and likely Syria, send in more troops to protect U.S. interests and advise allies and lead a coalition of NATO and Middle-Eastern allies to roll back and neutralize the enemy.
Boehner said that while he agreed with the president’s request for the $500 million, he and many other members of his party were not convinced that Obama’s overall plan was sufficient.
Obama has said repeatedly that he doesn’t require additional authorization from Congress to wage warfare against ISIS, but many Republicans and some Democrats disagree – and they want to have that discussion.
Only that momentous discussion and vote will have to come after the Nov. 4 election. Lawmakers just returned to work a few days ago after a five-week summer recess, but already they are hot to return home again to resume campaigning. Many apparently are leery of going on record on whether the U.S. should once again become deeply involved in the chaotic fighting in Iraq and Syria before the election.
The Washington Post reported on Friday “there was growing support among lawmakers” to eventually debate the issue, although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) cautioned colleagues against “rash” action to approve legislation they might later regret.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is the highest-ranking Democrat to embrace the idea of staging a full-scale congressional debate and vote on authorizing the president’s battle plan during the Lame Duck session after the election.
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