Bi­par­ti­san angst over Obama’s war pow­ers

Congress awaits promised ac­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JAC­QUE­LINE KLIMAS

Pres­i­dent Obama promised a new war de­bate, but two weeks after mak­ing that post­elec­tion vow he has yet to send over leg­is­la­tion or even to be­gin ne­go­ti­at­ing with Congress on rewrit­ing an au­tho­riza­tion to al­low him to go after the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ism group that he has com­mit­ted thou­sands of U.S. troops to com­bat in Iraq.

Law­mak­ers on both sides of the aisle said they are wait­ing on the pres­i­dent to make the first move.

“The process should come from him. He’s the com­man­der in chief,” said Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, South Carolina Repub­li­can. “If he feels he needs this au­thor­ity, he wants this au­thor­ity, then he should be the leader. He should write down what he’s look­ing for in terms of au­thor­ity and let us de­bate it.”

Even Democrats aren’t happy that the pres­i­dent has been hands-off in the de­bate. Sen. Robert Me­nen­dez, New Jersey Demo­crat and chair­man of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said the White House won’t send wit­nesses to Capi­tol Hill to dis­cuss what the mil­i­tary needs in an au­tho­riza­tion for use of mil­i­tary force, also called an AUMF.

“I have al­ways felt that we should be con­tin­u­ing … on an AUMF, but it’s a lit­tle dif­fi­cult when the ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t pro­duce any wit­nesses,” he said. “So ei­ther they want an AUMF or they don’t.”

Mr. Obama in­vited the de­bate the day after his party suf­fered bruis­ing elec­tion de­feats. In a press con­fer­ence, he said the na­ture of the en­emy has changed since Congress au­tho­rized the bat­tle against al Qaeda in 2001 and the ouster of Sad­dam Hus­sein from Iraq in 2002.

The pres­i­dent called for “a process of lis­ten­ing to mem­bers of Congress, as well as us pre­sent­ing what we think needs to be the set of au­thor­i­ties that we have.”

He said the process would be­gin im­me­di­ately, though a fi­nal res­o­lu­tion “may carry over into the next Congress.”

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokes­woman Ber­nadette Meehan said the ad­min­is­tra­tion and law­mak­ers are hav­ing those talks.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to have con­ver­sa­tions with mem­bers of both par­ties re­gard­ing an AUMF to suit the cur­rent fight and our cur­rent strat­egy against ISIL,” she said.

But those on Capi­tol Hill said they haven’t seen enough ev­i­dence.

Mr. Gra­ham said he thinks the pres­i­dent doesn’t want to put his needs for the war in writ­ing be­cause it may anger some of his far-left sup­port­ers.

“I think he doesn’t want to make that hard decision. He doesn’t want to write down on a piece of pa­per what he would like Congress to do be­cause he’s afraid of the left,” he said. “I’m not go­ing to do any­thing un­til he leads on this.”

When the pres­i­dent or­dered airstrikes against Is­lamic State fight­ers this year, he said he had the au­thor­ity to do so un­der con­gres­sional ac­tions in 2001 and 2002 that give him power to fight al Qaeda or as­so­ci­ated groups and wage war in Iraq. The two au­tho­riza­tions have not ex­pired, and Congress has not re­pealed them.

Se­na­tors have been frus­trated with the ad­min­is­tra­tion for a mud­dled strat­egy. More than a year after the pres­i­dent de­liv­ered a ma­jor anti-ter­ror­ism speech call­ing for the au­tho­riza­tions to be rewrit­ten, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials an­gered law­mak­ers at a For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing in May by of­fer­ing no sug­ges­tions for changes.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham in­sists war au­thor­ity leg­is­la­tion should be laid out by the pres­i­dent, not Congress. “The process should come from him. He’s the com­man­der in chief,” he said.

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