House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Speaker John Boehner to initiate a debate in Congress over granting President Barack Obama a new authorization to use military force to defeat Islamic militants.
“Everybody in the country’s talking about it except for us,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said during a breakfast with Bloomberg News reporters and editors in New York today.
This month, Congress in a rare bipartisan vote passed Obama’s plan to arm and train Syrian rebels. That will expire in December during a post-election session of Congress.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said yesterday he was willing to call Congress back into session to vote on authorizing broader military action, though he said it’s up to Obama to make the request.
“Since when do we sit around waiting, using the excuse he didn’t ask?” Pelosi said, referring to the president. “No, if you want to have an authorization that has any constraints on the president, you don’t wait for him to write it.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded in an e-mail, “Traditionally, such a request comes from the commander in chief. It seems logical for Representative Pelosi to urge President Obama to send us one, as Speaker Boehner has already.”
The debate over what power the president should have to uproot Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria will open a divide in both parties and both chambers of Congress.
Democrats led by Pelosi strongly oppose using U.S. ground troops to fight Islamic State, and a number of Democrats voted against this month’s train-and-equip provision. Many Republicans, particularly in the House, want a more robust response including possible ground forces.
The White House has been using an authorization passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as the legal justification for its strikes against Islamic State targets. Yesterday, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said that while the White House would welcome a fresh authorization, “we don’t need it.”
“We have the 2001 authorization, and we have a basis in the 2001 authorization,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Lawmakers from both parties say that, as the strikes against Islamic State expand, a fresh authorization is needed because the new mission goes beyond the previous war against al-Qaeda terrorists and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.