By Katherine Skiba, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said President Barack Obama’s request to Congress to authorize military operations against Islamic State isn’t sufficient and that he will aim to strengthen it in the coming weeks.
“I don’t believe that what the president sent here gives him the flexibility or the authority to take on this enemy and to win,” the Republican leader said on Fox News Sunday.
Boehner said he viewed the president’s submission as the “beginning of the process” and that there would be “bipartisan discussions about how we strengthen this authorization.”
Boehner also promised “exhaustive hearings” by three House committees: Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Armed Services.
Obama’s request to Congress last week to authorize military operations against Islamic State set relatively few hard limits for him or his successor but appears designed to force lawmakers to shoulder more of the responsibility for a lengthy conflict.
Obama’s proposal for a three-year authorization is aimed at bridging the divide among lawmakers, who must now weigh in themselves, a top White House adviser said Sunday.
“It’s very important in questions of war and peace for Congress to be heard,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who as head of the chamber’s Foreign Relations committee is a key voice in the debate, countered that the White House proposal fails to go far enough in detailing the president’s strategy and that skepticism abounds on Capitol Hill about Obama’s plans for a fight that Corker emphasized is likely to last for years.
Still, some Republicans have complained that the proposal was too restrictive. “It is important,” Corker said, “for Congress to get behind something that’s prudent.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned against Congress restraining the president in the authorization for military action, saying it would lead to “535 commanders in chief.” He noted that Congress also has the power of the purse and could cut off funding if it disapproved of the president’s actions.
McCain, who was taken prisoner of war while serving in Vietnam, was highly critical of Obama on Syria and Iraq. He said “there is no strategy whatsoever” on Syria and called pulling out of Iraq in 2011 a “huge mistake.”
There needs to be a stabilizing force in Iraq, McCain said. “You’re going to also have to have American boots on the ground,” he added. “That does not mean the massive numbers as the president sets up that straw man all the time, but it does mean forward air controllers, special forces and many others.”
The president’s proposed authorization would allow for limited ground forces, including special operations troops.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr