War authority bill in trouble as both sides register objections

Barack Obama has accomplished many things as president. Now, perhaps his most elusive goal is within reach; uniting Congress in a bi-partisan coalition.

Of course, most of us look in askance at many of the president's "accomplishments." As for bi-partisanship, I'm not sure this is what the president had in mind.

Opposition from both the right and the left is building over Obama's proposal for Congress to grant him additional war powers in the fight against Islamic State.

The Hill:

Congressional resistance to President Obama's new war powers request has ballooned, with a growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle vowing to oppose it.

Conservative hawks are attacking from the right, saying the authority Obama requests would too tightly restrict the Pentagon. Liberal Democrats are attacking from the left, contending the limits are too loose to preclude another prolonged ground war.

Some say there's no compromise in sight.

“Congress, since World War II, has never failed to take an opportunity to duck responsibility when it comes to military deployment," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who opposes Obama's proposal. “If past is prologue, I don't think it'll change this time, either.”

The issue has flipped the partisan politics of recent years on their head, with Republicans — who are suing the White House over alleged executive overreach — wanting to grant the administration more power. Democrats, who have backed Obama's executive actions, want to apply more formal checks on their ally in the White House.

“Congress cannot vote on good intentions,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told CNN Thursday. “We're voting on what's written on the page of the law.”

From a practical standpoint, a failure of Congress to enact Obama's proposal, known as an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), would have little immediate effect. The president has long-maintained that an AUMF passed in 2001 already grants him the authority to take on ISIS, and U.S. forces have done so in both Iraq and Syria since last summer.

Politically, however, Obama's new proposal shifts the burden on Congress to weigh in formally on parameters governing the conflict after months of vocal criticisms — largely from GOP leaders — that Congress has been left out of the debate.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that Obama “did the right thing” in asking Congress for the new authority, but suggested the proposal is far too limiting to win his support.

“The president has tied his own hands and wants to tie his hands even further with the authorization that he's sent up here,” Boehner said in a press briefing. “The president should have the flexibility to fight this war wherever it is. As simple as that.”

Indeed, you can see why the administration was reluctant to give Congress any input into war fighting strategy. Inevitably, without strong leadership from the White House - not forthcoming in this instance - you have to deal with 535 secretaries of defense. Everyone gets their own ideas about how to fight a war when you make the request for war powers so nebulous and vague.

Interestingly, liberals want severe restrictions on the president's war making abilities, largely because they think they were burned back in 2003 with the Iraq War resolution. But putting handcuffs on the military in this situation just doesn't make any sense. Our men are already in danger thanks to the takeover of a town by IS to the west of Baghdad that contains a large military base where our Marines are training Iraqi soldiers. The enemy has already launched one attack featuring 8 suicide bombers. IS knows our men are there and nothing would please them more than to overrun the base and capture a few Marines. Imagine the propaganda value of that scenario.

Obama is not about to launch a major war against Islamic State. But having the flexibility to respond to situations that place our men in danger is crucial. The current resolution should be scrapped and Congress should come up with their own alternative. They probably have a better shot of coming to an agreement than if the White House continued to insist on passing this flawed AUMF.

Barack Obama has accomplished many things as president. Now, perhaps his most elusive goal is within reach; uniting Congress in a bi-partisan coalition.

Of course, most of us look in askance at many of the president's "accomplishments." As for bi-partisanship, I'm not sure this is what the president had in mind.

Opposition from both the right and the left is building over Obama's proposal for Congress to grant him additional war powers in the fight against Islamic State.

The Hill:

Congressional resistance to President Obama's new war powers request has ballooned, with a growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle vowing to oppose it.

Conservative hawks are attacking from the right, saying the authority Obama requests would too tightly restrict the Pentagon. Liberal Democrats are attacking from the left, contending the limits are too loose to preclude another prolonged ground war.

Some say there's no compromise in sight.

“Congress, since World War II, has never failed to take an opportunity to duck responsibility when it comes to military deployment," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who opposes Obama's proposal. “If past is prologue, I don't think it'll change this time, either.”

The issue has flipped the partisan politics of recent years on their head, with Republicans — who are suing the White House over alleged executive overreach — wanting to grant the administration more power. Democrats, who have backed Obama's executive actions, want to apply more formal checks on their ally in the White House.

“Congress cannot vote on good intentions,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told CNN Thursday. “We're voting on what's written on the page of the law.”

From a practical standpoint, a failure of Congress to enact Obama's proposal, known as an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), would have little immediate effect. The president has long-maintained that an AUMF passed in 2001 already grants him the authority to take on ISIS, and U.S. forces have done so in both Iraq and Syria since last summer.

Politically, however, Obama's new proposal shifts the burden on Congress to weigh in formally on parameters governing the conflict after months of vocal criticisms — largely from GOP leaders — that Congress has been left out of the debate.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that Obama “did the right thing” in asking Congress for the new authority, but suggested the proposal is far too limiting to win his support.

“The president has tied his own hands and wants to tie his hands even further with the authorization that he's sent up here,” Boehner said in a press briefing. “The president should have the flexibility to fight this war wherever it is. As simple as that.”

Indeed, you can see why the administration was reluctant to give Congress any input into war fighting strategy. Inevitably, without strong leadership from the White House - not forthcoming in this instance - you have to deal with 535 secretaries of defense. Everyone gets their own ideas about how to fight a war when you make the request for war powers so nebulous and vague.

Interestingly, liberals want severe restrictions on the president's war making abilities, largely because they think they were burned back in 2003 with the Iraq War resolution. But putting handcuffs on the military in this situation just doesn't make any sense. Our men are already in danger thanks to the takeover of a town by IS to the west of Baghdad that contains a large military base where our Marines are training Iraqi soldiers. The enemy has already launched one attack featuring 8 suicide bombers. IS knows our men are there and nothing would please them more than to overrun the base and capture a few Marines. Imagine the propaganda value of that scenario.

Obama is not about to launch a major war against Islamic State. But having the flexibility to respond to situations that place our men in danger is crucial. The current resolution should be scrapped and Congress should come up with their own alternative. They probably have a better shot of coming to an agreement than if the White House continued to insist on passing this flawed AUMF.