WASHINGTON -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Tuesday he is committed to starting talks with his colleagues to see if there is a path forward on President Barack Obama’s request for the power to wage war against the Islamic State.
While Corker remained skeptical, he said he is "open to looking at it" once his legislation granting Congress the ability to review any final nuclear deal with Iran is taken care of on the Senate floor. Corker’s compromise on his Iran bill with Democrats is expected to reach the floor as early as next week.
Once that is wrapped up, Corker said, he will focus on the president’s Authorization for the Use of Military Force request (AUMF) against ISIS, which Obama formally issued in February.
“I do think it is something we should look at," Corker said. "And if I do see there is a path forward to success--and I’m beginning to have some conversations again about it--then we will take it up."
He warned, however, that if he thinks firing up the debate surrounding the president's war authority request will "send a message to our allies or our enemies that somehow the nation is divided over ISIS," then he won’t touch it.
“What I don’t want to do is begin a process that at the end of it may show division," Corker said. "In other words, I want us to be successful if we are going to go about it."
He said he “made a commitment to begin discussions” to see if there is a path forward to move Obama’s AUMF, and some have already begun.
Still, Corker said he doesn’t think a new AUMF would “change anything that is happening on the ground one iota,” citing testimony from administration officials saying they believe the president already has the authority to conduct a war on ISIS.
“In due time, if we see a pathway forward that can be successful, we’re going to take it up,” Corker said.
His comments come on the heels of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying Obama’s request is dead in Congress.
“I do not see a path to 218 with what the president sent up because the world has become more dangerous since he laid out Yemen as the strategy of how to move forward,” McCarthy told reporters last week. “This would weaken our ability to respond to current situations.”
On Tuesday, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) also chimed in on the war powers request, saying they don’t see a way to move it right now. McCain said he wants an AUMF “that doesn’t restrict the president’s abilities to act as commander in chief,” adding that there are no compromises on that note.
Republicans and Democrats remain staunchly divided on the issue. Republicans claim Obama's request limits his power too much, while Democrats want to see tighter restrictions on the use of ground troops.