Congress can't force a vote on military action on ISIS

The president's admission that he doesn't have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State is actually protecting him from congressional oversight, says Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast:

In recent days, leading lawmakers in both parties have been talking tough about forcing the Obama administration to devise and then reveal their strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, as President Obama has promised. There have been public calls for hearings and votes on whether Congress should formally give Obama the authority to do what he’s already doing in Iraq and what he might soon want to do in Syria.

But behind the scenes, there’s no clear plan for Congress to exert its will or even make its wishes known. Lawmakers, staffers, and officials told The Daily Beast that the administration’s refusal to tell anyone their strategy and work with Congress on a bill to authorize military action means the task of passing such a bill is a Sisyphean effort likely to fail. The Hill may not even be able to muster a vote, they say.

“Members will certainly have discussions about the path forward on [ISIS] when they return next week, but how could Congress vote to authorize some action when the President hasn’t even made a compelling case to the American people about what our national objective and strategy should be?” a senior House GOP aide told The Daily Beast.

There’s widespread frustration in both chambers and both parties about President Obama’s admission that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But now the lack of strategy is actually protecting Obama from oversight because Congress can’t authorize or reject what it can’t understand.

In fact, the White House has been totally mum on how they plan to legally justify the air war in Iraq after the temporary authority granted to them in the War Powers Resolution expires. According to the 1973 law, the President must report to Congress when he uses U.S. military force in a hostile environment; Congress must then specifically authorize such action within 60 days or the President has to stop. The President can invoke a one-time, 30-day extension.

But, so far, there have been no substantial consultations with Congress about such an authorization. The White House declined to say whether they even cared if Congress acts or not.

In short, Congress can't dictate military strategy to the commander in chief, nor can they force him to seek congressional authorization for military action. In the past, Democrats in Congress tried to sue Republican presidents for going to war without fulfilling the requirements of the War Powers Act. But in recent years, presidents have usually been careful to keep congress in the loop - even if they didn't adhere to the letter of the law.

But President Obama went to war in Libya without even so much as a by your leave to Congress. He's even talked about scrapping the Authorization to Use Military Force resolution upon which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were justified. Congress hasn't made a big stink about his actions in Iraq against IS yet because they've been so limited.

But if we're really going to go after Islamic State in Syria, that's going to require some kind of congressional authorization. The president hasn't said definitively whether he would try to bypass Congress on a new war in Syria, but if he ever comes up with a military strategy to deal with the terrorists, there would be a bi-partisan coalition to demand that he clue Congress in.

And how about taking the American people into his confidence? This president has consistently failed to fully justify his military actions  to citizens. The fact that he hasn't bothered to do so previously, gives us no confidence he will do so this time.

The president's admission that he doesn't have a strategy to deal with the Islamic State is actually protecting him from congressional oversight, says Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast:

In recent days, leading lawmakers in both parties have been talking tough about forcing the Obama administration to devise and then reveal their strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, as President Obama has promised. There have been public calls for hearings and votes on whether Congress should formally give Obama the authority to do what he’s already doing in Iraq and what he might soon want to do in Syria.

But behind the scenes, there’s no clear plan for Congress to exert its will or even make its wishes known. Lawmakers, staffers, and officials told The Daily Beast that the administration’s refusal to tell anyone their strategy and work with Congress on a bill to authorize military action means the task of passing such a bill is a Sisyphean effort likely to fail. The Hill may not even be able to muster a vote, they say.

“Members will certainly have discussions about the path forward on [ISIS] when they return next week, but how could Congress vote to authorize some action when the President hasn’t even made a compelling case to the American people about what our national objective and strategy should be?” a senior House GOP aide told The Daily Beast.

There’s widespread frustration in both chambers and both parties about President Obama’s admission that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But now the lack of strategy is actually protecting Obama from oversight because Congress can’t authorize or reject what it can’t understand.

In fact, the White House has been totally mum on how they plan to legally justify the air war in Iraq after the temporary authority granted to them in the War Powers Resolution expires. According to the 1973 law, the President must report to Congress when he uses U.S. military force in a hostile environment; Congress must then specifically authorize such action within 60 days or the President has to stop. The President can invoke a one-time, 30-day extension.

But, so far, there have been no substantial consultations with Congress about such an authorization. The White House declined to say whether they even cared if Congress acts or not.

In short, Congress can't dictate military strategy to the commander in chief, nor can they force him to seek congressional authorization for military action. In the past, Democrats in Congress tried to sue Republican presidents for going to war without fulfilling the requirements of the War Powers Act. But in recent years, presidents have usually been careful to keep congress in the loop - even if they didn't adhere to the letter of the law.

But President Obama went to war in Libya without even so much as a by your leave to Congress. He's even talked about scrapping the Authorization to Use Military Force resolution upon which the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were justified. Congress hasn't made a big stink about his actions in Iraq against IS yet because they've been so limited.

But if we're really going to go after Islamic State in Syria, that's going to require some kind of congressional authorization. The president hasn't said definitively whether he would try to bypass Congress on a new war in Syria, but if he ever comes up with a military strategy to deal with the terrorists, there would be a bi-partisan coalition to demand that he clue Congress in.

And how about taking the American people into his confidence? This president has consistently failed to fully justify his military actions  to citizens. The fact that he hasn't bothered to do so previously, gives us no confidence he will do so this time.