Congress Must Decide on War Against Islamic State Militants

On February 11, President Obama sent a request to Congress for a new Authorization to Use Military Force in order to combat Islamic State militants.

“Seeking congressional authorization to wage war is not just prudent, it is a constitutional requirement,” said TCP President Virginia Sloan in a press release.   “Congress must decide whether this war should continue and, if so, on what terms,” she added.

Last June, a bipartisan group of members of The Constitution Project War Powers Committee urged Obama to seek congressional approval before initiating military action in Syria or Iraq, a call they renewed in August.  The American-led campaign against the group, which the president’s request calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, began with limited air strikes in Iraq on August 8, but has quickly grown into what the Obama administration acknowledges may require a multi-year effort to destroy it.

In November, a broad coalition of groups joined The Constitution Project in asking Congress to make it clear in any new legislation that neither the 2001 nor 2002 AUMFs apply to actions against ISIL.

“There is no evidence that when Congress authorized the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 — targeting those responsible for the September 11 attacks — or the invasion of Iraq in 2002 — targeting the then government of Iraq and its claimed development of weapons of mass destruction — Congress intended to delegate to whoever might be president more than a decade later the sole authority to decide that the United States should join in a new war; one that at the time had not begun, was not foreseen, and involves parties who did not exist.  If Congress fails to tackle the 2001 AUMF and the 2002 Iraq AUMF in any new ISIL-focused AUMF, it risks simply adding to a tangled and ambiguous web of war authorities from which a president could pick and choose without explanation,” the groups wrote.

Politico reports that lawmakers and administration officials have said consideration of the president’s request could take weeks, or even months.

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