After two beheadings of American journalists, the pressure on Barack Obama to act has ramped up considerably. Congress returned to work this week, and with it an effort to weigh in on the American response to ISIS terrorism. Unlike a year ago, when Congress restrained Obama from attacking Bashar al-Assad in part over concerns that it would boost terrorist groups like ISIS, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that puts Congress ahead of the White House on action in Iraq and Syria:

Leading lawmakers in charge of foreign policy reacted Tuesday to the reported beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff by increasing their calls for more congressional involvement and oversight of President Obama’s war on ISIS.

The latest apparent ISIS atrocity against an American citizen added to the congressional anger at the Obama administration for what many critics call an incomplete and unclear plan to confront the group both in Iraq and Syria, following President Obama’s admission last week that “We don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The two leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tuesday that they want to lead the charge for more congressional oversight by holding hearings and forcing a vote on Obama’s ISIS war within 60 days of the commencement of airstrikes in Iraq last month. …

Still reeling from Obama’s August 28 declaration that the White House lacks a strategy for confronting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, top lawmakers in both parties called on the president Tuesday to get one fast and tell Congress and the American people what it is.

“The threat of ISIS is just something that I believe very strongly that we cannot take lightly. We cannot dither, we cannot just twiddle our thumbs, or wait and see. We have to act and we have to act soon,” Engel said. “The more countries that we can get in this crusade to destroy terrorism…the better it will be.”

The Hill also reports on the bipartisan consensus that more action and better leadership are in order:

Lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday exhorted President Obama to broaden the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the group released a second video that appeared to show the beheading of an American journalist.

While the authenticity of the video has not been confirmed, lawmakers said the presumed execution of 31-year-old Time journalist Steven Sotloff demands a forceful American response.

“Let there be no doubt, we must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in a statement.

Nelson announced he would offer legislation next week that would give Obama clear authority to strike ISIS in Syria.

“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs,” Nelson said.

Even Obama himself started off talking tough in his presser while at the NATO summit in Estonia. Both CBS and ABC noticed, however, that Obama appeared to backpedal and offer mixed signals the longer he talked:

But when ABC News Radio White House correspondent Ann Compton today asked the president to clarify whether the United States now wants ISIS destroyed, the president seemed to significantly backtrack.

“Our objective is to make sure they aren’t an ongoing threat to the region,” he said.

Then, in response to another question, he seemed to backtrack even further:  “We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its military capability to the point where it is a manageable problem.”

Making ISIS a “manageable problem” sounds like a far cry from destroying it.

To be fair, the fallback position does have its historical parallels, as Yahoo’s Olivier Knox pointed out on Twitter:

The problem is that Obama managed to go from maximalist to minimalist, or at least significantly more minimal, within the space of a few minutes. It once again demonstrates that the White House really doesn’t have a strategy in mind and seems to be pinballing between positions depending on the time of day and who’s asking the question. That’s one reason why Congress is now aiming to take the lead on strategic purpose, in the absence of any evidence of strategic thinking in the Oval Office.