In between Sept. 11 remembrance speeches, lawmakers on Thursday promised quick action on the latest threat to American security: Islamic militants in the Middle East with familiar anti-Western rhetoric and brutal acts of violence.
In a national address Wednesday night, President Obama outlined plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist network through increased U.S. military operations, in response to the group’s mounting size and strength.
The new effort includes increased airstrikes, more U.S. personnel on the ground, a coalition of regional combat forces and plans to train and equip Syrian separatists. That last aspect will require congressional authorization, and prompted a flurry of meetings on Capitol Hill in response.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he expects both chambers of Congress to give Obama that authority by Sept. 19, when the House is expected to adjourn in preparation for the November elections.
But House Republicans spent Thursday debating what legislative vehicle to use for the military action, or whether to approve the idea at all.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Obama’s plan as a whole but added: “A speech is not the same thing as a strategy.” He called for “an all-out effort to destroy an enemy that has declared a holy war against America and the principles for which we stand,” but acknowledged that House members in days to come will need to be convinced of the same urgency.
In a Thursday morning speech prepared before Obama’s announcement, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, argued that U.S. combat troops are both necessary and inevitable in the region, despite administration opposition to “boots on the ground” in Iraq.
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