The United States has begun a bombing campaign in Syria, but don't bet on Congress returning to Washington to vote on a new war authorization anytime soon.
Shortly after airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria started, some lawmakers started pushing again for an authorization vote. But so far, leaders aren't gearing up to bring their members back to town.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Monday night it was "irresponsible and immoral" that congressional leaders had chosen to recess for nearly two months instead of debating and voting on war. And the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, released a statement saying it's "time for Congress to step up and revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force in a way that supports the targeted actions underway, but also prevents the deployment of American ground forces that would drag us into another Iraq War."
Van Hollen tweeted that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, should call the House back to debate a new Authorization to Use Military Force.
Boehner's office deferred to the White House when asked about the issue.
“As the Speaker has said, he thinks it would be good for the country to have a new authorization for the use of military force covering our actions against ISIL, but traditionally such an authorization is requested and written by the commander-in-chief — and President Obama has not done that," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said via email.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, called on Obama to push for a vote in a statement Tuesday.
Amash, center, said Congress should debate and vote on a new war authorization. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
“While I support taking immediate action to address this serious threat and stand with our men and women in uniform, the potential consequences of any missteps are grave and the stakes too high for the President to go it alone with a ‘pen and phone’ mentality," he said. “As the President involves the nation deeper in what could be a prolonged military campaign, he should seek a new Congressional authorization for the use of military force without delay.”
Obama has the ability under the Constitution to force Congress to return but appears content to rely on the 2001 AUMF. Many in Congress believe the AUMF should not cover offensive strikes in Syria against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, because the group did not exist at the time and has broken with al-Qaida.
A senior administration official said Tuesday the administration believes the 2001 AUMF covers the strikes against both ISIS and the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida offshoot. The official said they didn't think it could be Congress' intent to have the AUMF cease to apply just because ISIS has a dispute with al-Qaida.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office also gave CQ Roll Call a statement on the subject.
"Leader Pelosi believes that the President has the authority to do what he’s doing now," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.
In short, unless the outcry for congressional authorization grows much stronger, don't expect Congress to come back to Washington before November.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.
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