- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2015

Congress expects the White House to officially ask lawmakers next week to authorize the fight against the Islamic State and thereby provide details of President Obama’s strategy for combating the terrorists.

Known as an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, the request would end a monthslong stalemate in which each side has waited for the other to make the first move: Mr. Obama said he would welcome Congress‘ backing for his actions, but Capitol Hill demanded that the president propose a specific strategy for a legislative vote.

The resolution will spawn hearings, and Mr. Obama’s top national security lieutenants likely will defend his plans to Congress. The White House said it has tried to work out language that can earn the support of majorities in the House and Senate.

“What the president’s interested in is not just passing this AUMF but being able to demonstrate some bipartisan support for it,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday. “The goal here is to demonstrate clearly to the American people, to our allies and to our enemies that there is strong support for this commitment to degrade and ultimately destroy [the Islamic State].”

Mr. Obama has called for Congress to unite behind him since September, saying the war on terrorism has evolved beyond the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts that were authorized in 2001 and 2002. He said it is time to replace those authorizations.

Yet he has been reluctant to propose his own plan, leading to a battle with Republican leaders in Congress who say it is his responsibility as commander in chief. The president finally relented.

Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, said lawmakers are responsible for debating the president’s plan and ensuring that there is a clear strategy for defeating the Islamic State that includes no U.S. ground forces.

“While I have not seen the president’s proposal for an authorization for the use of military force to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sending an AUMF to Congress is a critical first step,” Mr. Schatz said in a statement. “Congress must exercise its constitutional role in authorizing the use of force.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said discussions between the administration and Congress had focused on how long the authorization would last, whether it would allow for combat troops to be used in the fight against the Islamic State or limit the U.S. role to air power, intelligence and logistics support, and whether there are geographic limits to the American effort.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has said the administration doesn’t envision combat troops on the ground but prefers a resolution that leaves the option open in case the president feels they are needed.

Mrs. Pelosi said she expects a three-year authorization but has not predicted whether the resolution will be limited to Iraq and Syria or how it will address the use of ground troops in rescue missions or other cases.

She also said she expects the president’s plan to repeal the 2002 authorization for military force in Iraq but leave the 2001 authorization for Afghanistan on the books.

Mr. Obama last year initiated airstrikes against the Islamic State even without renewed permission from Congress, saying he could fight the terrorist group under 2001 and 2002 authorizations. Some lawmakers, however, have said those decade-old authorizations to fight al Qaeda and its affiliates don’t cover the current fight.

The president already has the authority to train and equip Syrian rebels for two years in the fight against the Islamic State under the annual defense policy bill that became law in December.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed an authorization last year before adjourning, but the bill never made it to the Senate floor.

It would have authorized military force against the Islamic State for three years, required a report on a comprehensive strategy to defeat the terrorist group and prohibited most Americans from participating in ground combat.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has insisted that the White House spur the debate by sending its own proposal.

“We’re going to go through a rigorous set of hearings and continue to discuss this,” Mr. Boehner said Thursday. “It’s also going to be incumbent upon the president to go out there and make the case to the American people for why we have to fight this fight.”

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