The New York Times reports: President Obama’s formal request for congressional authorization to fight the Islamic State — once framed by lawmakers as a matter of great constitutional import — is now seriously imperiled because Republicans think it does too little and Democrats think it does too much.
And neither the White House nor many members of Congress seemed in any rush to bridge the divide.
Secretary of State John Kerry and other top administration officials urged members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday to approve Mr. Obama’s request, but it was clear during the contentious three-hour session that lawmakers were far from reaching any agreement.
When Mr. Obama, in his news conference after the midterm elections in November, announced he would seek specific authorization from Congress, he said, “The world needs to know we are united behind this effort.” But after the proposal went to Congress, there is little evidence that the administration has lobbied members to win support for its request, and few suggestions that Democratic and Republican lawmakers are successfully working toward an alternative.
Despite urging Congress to pass the authorization for military action, Mr. Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all made clear that they believed the administration already had the legal authority to pursue its military campaign against the Islamic State under two previous authorizations: one in 2001 allowing the president to fight a global war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and one in 2002 that enabled President George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq.
“The president already has statutory authority to act against ISIL,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS. “But a clear and formal expression of this Congress’s backing at this moment in time would dispel doubts that might exist anywhere that Americans are united in this effort.”
Mr. Kerry also called on Congress to speak “with a single powerful voice at this pivotal hour.”
But given that military operations have been underway for months, the White House views the resolution as symbolically important but not required. [Continue reading…]