It’s been well over a year since the Obama administration began its bombing campaign against the Islamic State. But beyond the occasional pining from some members of Congress, there has been little indication that lawmakers will vote on legislation formally authorizing what is objectively viewed as an act of war.
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made the prospects of passing an Authorization for Use of Military Force even more remote when he said he had no interest in doing so with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. From his interview with ABC’s “This Week” (emphasis ours):
Well, the problem with what the president submitted for authorization to use military force restricted what he could do. I can’t imagine that I would be voting for an authorization for the use of military force that Barack Obama would sign because the one he submitted for us to take a look at restricted his activities, what he could do based upon conditions on the ground.
Look, I don’t want to tie the hands of the next president. The next president may want to actually defeat ISIL. And I think an AUMF, an authorization to use military force, that ties the president’s hands behind his back is not something I would want to do to a new president who’s going to have to clean up this mess, created by all of this passivity over the last eight years.
What this means, effectively, is that U.S. operations will continue in western Iraq and Syria for at least another year before the Senate actually votes to support or oppose it. The administration says it has the legal authority to do this, based on the 2001 AUMF to go after those who committed the 9/11 terror attacks or harbored the terrorists. And though that argument has been criticized as dubious, it hasn’t been challenged seriously enough to impede our campaign against ISIS.
Still, the White House has submitted a new AUMF for that specific campaign, in part to have firmer legal ground and in part to put Congress on record in support of the operation. McConnell has now effectively said he won’t give them either.
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