Speaker John A. Boehner repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether he supports more U.S. troops in the Middle East or if Congress should authorize military action against ISIS, telling reporters the House needs to hear from President Barack Obama.
Boehner is scheduled to visit the White House later Tuesday — along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and the president may very well ask for congressional authorization to ramp up action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
But that doesn't mean he'd get it — at least not anytime soon.
House Armed Services Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said Tuesday he didn't think the House even has time to debate and vote on an authorization for military force before leaving for the pre-election recess in early October. Even if there were time, it's unclear if there would be the votes.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney came before House Republicans Tuesday in a closed-door meeting to discuss the terrorist threat in the Middle East. And while many Republicans were quick to show deference to one of the major architects of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — "He's a man of great gravitas and poise," said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. — many other Republicans were taking Cheney's words with more than a grain of salt.
Justin Amash, R-Mich., said it was time for the GOP to stop listening to Cheney, particularly on foreign policy. "Because Republicans don't agree with him," Amash said.
Cheney's message to Republicans, according to members exiting the meeting, was that a strong America would provide for a stable world environment.
"And that the president's failure of leadership, and incompetence in leadership, has put us into — put the world into — a very unstable position, has imperiled the security of the United States, and that we need to rebuild our military and have a better foreign policy so that we can restore the stability to the world," said Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, summing up Cheney's warning to lawmakers.
Regardless of Cheney's message, both parties are concerned about the possibilities of a another long and costly war in the Middle East. But they are also concerned about doing nothing.
Long one of the most hawkish members of the House, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told reporters that Obama has the authority to act without congressional authorization, and that the White House should execute a military response to ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, without waiting for consent from Capitol Hill.
"I think it's better if Congress would give approval," King said. But he added that it would be better to give authorization "after the fact."
King explained that debate could slow down action and distract from the task at hand, and he recalled the messiness of last year's debate over whether to take military action in Syria.
"It would complicate the message," King said. "I know allies were very disappointed last year when [Obama] was lining up support and then he pulled the rug out."
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said he looked forward to hearing what Obama had to say regarding a strategy to combat ISIS, both in his scheduled address on Wednesday evening and after the White House meeting with House and Senate leaders later on Tuesday.
"If the president does not lay out a clear policy that members of Congress and the American people and our military and our enemies understand, then I don't think there'll be any action taken," Sessions said. "If there's no clear plan, what would the president be asking us to do?"
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