House, Senate Laying Groundwork for War on ISIS

Wolf is pushing to create a bipartisan special committee to investigate last year's attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Wolf is pushing to create a bipartisan special committee to investigate last year's attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted September 3, 2014 at 3:38pm

As President Barack Obama weighs U.S. options for confronting ISIS, the insurgent group in control of parts of Iraq and Syria, lawmakers in both the House and Senate are moving to ensure that the administration has the authority to take military action if necessary.  

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., said in a statement Wednesday he will introduce legislation when Congress reconvenes next week that would authorize the use of military force against ISIS and other terror groups around the world, including al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, al Shabaab and Boko Haram.  

Separately, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday in Virginia that Congress should not leave town in September without considering an authorization to use force against ISIS. Wolf’s proposal comes one day after Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., announced a similar bill for the Senate as lawmakers from both chambers and both parties expressed anger and frustration over Tuesday’s release of another video showing the beheading of an American journalist by the jihadi insurgents.  

“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said in a release.  

ISIS has released two videos showing the executions of Americans — and threatened more — since U.S. forces interceded last month in northern Iraq, bombing insurgent positions in support of Kurdish fights and Iraqi government forces.  

Wolf said the bill would send a clear message to the international community and end any ambiguity about the president’s authority — or the Congress’ support — for a U.S.-led international coalition to disrupt and eliminate ISIS and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups from committing genocide.  

“For far too long the Obama Administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat,” Wolf said. “This resolution would provide clear authority for the president and our military, working with coalition partners, to go after these terrorists, whether in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere. We cannot continue operating on outdated authorities passed 13 years ago; it is time for this Congress to vote.”  

Republicans, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and McCain, have argued the president has emboldened the jihadists with a too-cautious approach to combating terror.  

House Speaker John A. Boehner said in an appearance on conservative Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that the president will need congressional authority if he wants to strike at ISIS in its Syrian strongholds.  

“If he’s going after ISIS, he would have, I think he would have to provide a War Powers notification to the Congress,” he said. “And then it would be up to the House to make a decision about whether we dealt with the issue or not.”  

Earlier on Wednesday, Obama vowed a sustained campaign against ISIS.  

“Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States,” he said.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.