US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is unable to tell lawmakers when the Obama administration might send Congress proposed language to legally authorize America’s latest military conflict.
President Barack Obama announced last week he intends to ask Congress to formally approve ongoing American military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, something members from both parties have called on him to do.
Republican lawmakers, who will control both the House and Senate once there is legislative time to move a force authorization, responded by saying Obama needs to write the first draft.
So far, however, the White House has yet to indicate when a proposal might arrive on Capitol Hill.
Asked Thursday by House Armed Services Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, when it might occur, Hagel replied: “I don’t know.”
What Hagel does know is there are “conversations” ongoing within the administration — and with lawmakers — about what an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in the Islamic State conflict might look like.
If and when the White House sends lawmakers a proposal, it would begin working through the committee process, via the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees.
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., likely the incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, says his panel should have a say in the final language.
On Wednesday, one of Capitol Hill’s most vocal authorization proponents, SASC and Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Tim Kaine, warned that unless there is debate and a vote, some members could try a different approach.
In that case, lawmakers “absolutely” would introduce measures designed “to get in the way” of the air strikes and ultimately “stop a war,” the Virginia Democrat warned.
Kaine said committee leaders are talking with the White House about the language of an authorization measure, predicting the eventual resolution will be a “Frankenstein job.” That means a measure that takes provisions from the handful of versions that have been introduced in the House and Senate, including one written by Kaine.