Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.
"The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America," the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. "The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response."
Speaking with reporters traveling aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that air strikes taken against the group known as ISIS or ISIL in Iraq were undertaken under Obama's authority as commander in chief, rather than the existing Iraq use of force resolution that remains in effect. As for authorization for possible strikes against the same group in Syria, Earnest was not ready to entertain it.
"We have not speculated about what sort of authority would be required from Congress if the president were to make a decision to authorize military — the use of military force in Syria. Since he hasn't made that decision, we haven't talked about what sort of authority he may or may not use if he were to make that decision. We just haven’t sort of speculated that far," Earnest said. "It's a legitimate question, and if we reach the point where the president does make a decision to use military force in Syria, then that will open up an additional set of questions that you’re raising right now."
McConnell stopped short of a call for Congress to return to Washington immediately, as Rep John B. Larson, D-Conn., did in his own statement . Separately, two senators on the Foreign Relations Committee have this week called for Congress to debate a new authorization.
"The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a threat to our allies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq, to our own national security interest in the region, and possesses the capability to launch ground assaults and terrorist attacks. The United States and our allies must act to disrupt, dismantle and destroy ISIL. The President's decision to withdraw our military from Iraq has severely weakened our ability as a nation to craft any plan for working with the Sunni tribes in Anbar province to combat ISIL," McConnell said.
Senate Republicans sent a letter to Obama back on July 8, seeking a strategy to combat the terrorist group. In addition to the situations in Iraq and Syria, the letter expressed specific concern about the risk of ISIS to the Kingdom of Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the region.
"We view King Abdallah II as an invaluable ally, and view the defense of Jordan as critical to the national security interests of the U.S. — and Israel," the letter said.
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