President Obama today submitted his plan to Congress for an authorization of military force against “the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
The White House also added an afternoon statement in the Roosevelt Room to the president’s schedule.
ISIS, Obama argues to Congress in the letter accompanying his proposal, “threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller.”
“If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland,” he added.
He stressed that current AUMFs make his strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq legal, but “I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force.”
The proposal doesn’t address the 2001 AUMF, though Obama said he’d like to “refine, and ultimately repeal” it.
Obama’s AUMF plan specifically “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said “the world needs to hear that the United States speaks with one voice in the fight against ISIL” by passing Obama’s AUMF.
“I spent almost thirty years in the Senate. I care about the institution and I particularly respect the voice that Congress can and should have on foreign policy and national security. This is a moment where Congress can make it clear all over the world that no matter differences on certain issues, at home we’re absolutely united and determined in defeating ISIL. I meet and talk with many of my former colleagues. I know how committed they are to getting this right,” Kerry said. “I also know from talking with so many Foreign Ministers all over the world that they study our debates here at home, and these public signals matter to them. The coalition itself will be stronger with passage of this AUMF.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said passage “would provide an important signal of support to DoD personnel, of commitment to our partners, and of resolve to ISIL.”
“The president’s draft language reflects important input from Congress, and would give our personnel the support and flexibility needed in our military operations against ISIL. The Department of Defense will continue to work with members of Congress to secure this resolution,” Hagel said. “Given the nature of our adversary and the complexity of our ongoing campaign, I urge Congress to avoid any undue restraints on the commander-in-chief’s choices in the effort to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it’s “certainly in order for Congress to debate an authorization like this.”
“And because Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force, the Senate will review the president’s request thoughtfully,” he said. “Individual Senators and committees of jurisdiction will review it carefully, and they’ll listen closely to the advice of military commanders as they consider the best strategy for defeating ISIL.”
McConnell noted that the Republican Conference would meet on the proposal in a discussion led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said he has concerns “about how the proposal the president has put forward will enable our military commanders to degrade and defeat ISIL.”
“In making his request months after military action against ISIL has started, the president must tell the American people why an AUMF is necessary. He must explain his strategy for success. He must detail where the resources will come from to achieve that success. He must explain how the military can operate within the restrictions he has suggested. And he should explain why he is seeking to tie his own hands by limiting authority that he’s already claimed,” Thornberry said.
“He must also assure the American people and our allies around the world that his heart is in the fight. And the Congress must uphold its Constitutional obligations as a separate branch of government with vital responsibilities to defend the American people against a bitter enemy.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) had an amendment in a different AUMF before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December that would require “any funds made available for activities authorized by this joint resolution should be fully offset through reduced spending, increased revenue, or both.”
“We cannot write another blank check for war,” Coons said. “Paying for war is not only fiscally, but also morally, responsible. It’s not right to expect our troops and their families to be the only people to sacrifice. It is the duty of the Congress, as we debate the scope and strategy for this conflict, to also look squarely at its cost and how to pay for it.”