An interesting dynamic is beginning to develop in the Congress. While many Republicans have indicated that they would welcome a decision by President Barack Obama to seek congressional authorization for the use of force against ISIS (Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will introduce just such an authorization on Tuesday), many have indicated that they do not think it is necessary. Some Democrats are, however, making it clear that Obama needs to come to Congress with a plan.
House Intelligence Committee member and key Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff joined CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday where he expressed his concerns most plainly. He said that what Obama is preparing to do is not a “contingency operation” or a “kinetic military action.” No, what the President of the United States is preparing to ask the country to do is to prepare for a “war,” and a long one at that. Schiff told Blitzer that it is a “constitutional necessity” for Obama to seek congressional approval for such an action.
“We are really going to war,” Schiff said. “When the president talks about taking the offense against ISIS, what we’re really saying is we’re engaged in a long-term military campaign.”
“This is something that we have a constitutional obligation to take up, to vote, and to authorize,” he added. Schiff also said that the legal authority the White House cites as its justification for stakes,, the protection of American assets in Iraq, is defunct. “We’ve moved well beyond the protection of American personnel in Erbil or Baghdad,” he asserted.
Blitzer noted that Obama is unlikely to seek such a fraught vote in the Congress. Schiff agreed, but noted that the legislative branch is “not some suitor that has to wait to be asked to the dance.”
“We can take this up, should take this up, in Congress,” Schiff insisted.
The president and his administration members have repeatedly suggested that they would like to have Congress “buy in” to the proposed action against ISIS, which could mean approving funding for that operation or some other form of consent.
“My guess is that the president would like nothing more,” Schiff later said, “then to have the [Congress] ratify in an authorization his ability to use force in these circumstances, but until he gets a sense that that’s really doable, he doesn’t want to completely rely on that. He’s not going to want to take the position that that’s fully necessary.”
Schiff appeared to understand the political necessity of the White House’s decision to adopt that position, but he clearly expressed reservations about a tacit sanctioning of anti-ISIS operations through a funding bill or a nonbinding resolution which would implicitly back an open-ended campaign against this terrorist group anywhere in the world.
It was not all that long ago that Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination behind a vote to authorize a war. Democrats recall that lesson vividly, and many will be cautious about signing on to what may become a long struggle which may eventually necessitate the use of ground troops.