Congress Puts off Debating and Voting on Use of U.S. Military Force against ISIS

By McArthur, Shirl | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November/December 2014 | Go to article overview

Congress Puts off Debating and Voting on Use of U.S. Military Force against ISIS


McArthur, Shirl, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


After President Barack Obama in August ordered air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, and later in Syria, there was some congressional interest in debating and voting on authorizing such actions. However, considering the all-important and overriding matter of getting themselves re-elected, congressional leaders decided to put offthat debate until after Congress returns for a "lame duck" session on Nov. 12. Congress did, however, on Sept. 18 approve an amendment to the "Continuing Resolution" funding the government until Dec. 11 (see below) that authorizes the secretary of defense "to provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition."

(The brutal, extremist Sunni group taking over much of Syria and Iraq goes by several names. They like to call themselves the "Islamic State," but, as explained on p. 19 of the Washington Report's October issue, they also are known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and some in Congress and the media use ISIL, for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Washington Report uses ISIS, since it reflects the Arabic name for the group.)

But prior to Congress' Sept. 19 recess, several measures were introduced authorizing the use of military force, with varying amounts of detail. Measures simply authorizing military force were S.J.Res. 43, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) on Sept. 8; H.J.Res. 123, introduced the same day by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and 15 co-sponsors; and H.J.Res. 127, introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and six co-sponsors on Sept. 18. Measures that specifically would not authorize the use of U.S. ground forces in a combat role were S.J.Res. 42, introduced on Sept. 8 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL); H.J.Res. 125, introduced on Sept. 16 by Rep. Adam Schiff(D-CA) and three co-sponsors; and S.J.Res. 44, introduced on Sept. 17 by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) with one co-sponsor.

More nuanced was H.J.Res. 128, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT) on Sept. 19, which would authorize force to "defend U.S. national security" and to enforce a U.N. Security Council resolution-but, absent such a resolution, would require approval of a congressional joint resolution. H.Con.Res. 114 was introduced Sept. 11 by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 16 co-sponsors, simply "urging Congress to debate and vote on a statutory authorization for any sustained U.S. combat role in Iraq or Syria."

The measures will likely die with the adjournment of the 113th Congress.

Intending to financially isolate ISIS, H.R. 5431, introduced on Sept. 10 by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) with seven co-sponsors, would impose sanctions on a foreign financial institution that facilitates financial transactions supporting or aiding ISIS.

More broadly, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who is retiring at the end of the 113th Congress, with seven co-sponsors introduced on Sept. 8 H.R. 5415, the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force against International Terrorism" bill. It would authorize military force against "those countries, organizations, or persons associated with or supporting terrorist groups (including al-Qaeda and its regional affiliates, ISIS, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, and any other related terrorist groups)."

However, it is likely that none of the measures described above will even be reported out of committee, much less taken up by the full House or Senate, during the "lame duck" session, and they will die with the adjournment of the 113th Congress. There is even a growing sentiment, especially among Republicans, that voting on a resolution authorizing force should be put offuntil the 114th Congress, which would be consistent with this Congress' penchant for doing as little as possible.

Bills Would Repeal 2002 Authorization of Force, War Powers Resolution

Several of the measures described above include clauses that would also repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. …

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