- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham demanded Wednesday that Congress debate and pass a new authorization for an open-ended war against the Islamic State, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill increasingly clamored to put their own stamps on the way the U.S. is fighting in the Middle East.

Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, said American troops and the nation’s intelligence services have been hamstrung by President Obama, and he said Congress needs to step in and approach a new authorization for the use of military force that envisions broad powers to target terrorists “wherever, whenever, and however.”

He said he would propose a broad authorization to press Mr. Obama to make a deeper commitment to fighting the Islamic State overseas.

A day earlier, Sens. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, and Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, renewed their own demand that Congress pass a new authorization. Unlike Mr. Graham, they said they want strict limits on the use of ground troops and would require the powers to be renewed in three years.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Flake said Congress has been remiss in leaving the president free to fight the war as he sees fit for more than a year and that it’s time for lawmakers to step up.

Congress has seemed to prefer a strategy of ‘criticize what the President’s doing’ but it’s not enough for this body that has a constitutional authority in matters of war to just criticize the commander in chief,” Mr. Kaine said in a floor speech this week. “What we’ve done is sat on the sidelines and criticized, but we have not been willing either to vote to authorize what’s going on, vote to stop what’s going on or vote to refine or revise what’s going on.”

Mr. Obama has slowly rebuilt U.S. involvement in Iraq and expanded it into Syria, where U.S. warplanes now conduct strikes on targets and special operations forces have been deployed to help organize opposition on the ground.

The president says he has the legal power to broaden the war under the 2001 authorization for use of force that Congress granted President George W. Bush to attack al Qaeda, and the 2002 legislation that approved the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Obama said the Islamic State is a splinter group of al Qaeda so the 2001 vote covers activities in Syria.

Under pressure from Congress, Mr. Obama submitted a request for authorization in February that called for a limited war and a three-year sunset.

The dispute between war hawks, such as Mr. Graham, and those who want a more limited engagement left Congress in a stalemate. But the recent terrorist attacks in Paris have renewed the push. The Islamic State, which also goes by the acronym ISIL and ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We must allow this president and every future president to do whatever is necessary to destroy ISIL before they hit us here at home,” Mr. Graham said. “We only have two choices regarding ISIL: fight them in their backyard or fight them in ours. I choose to fight them in their backyard.”

The Paris attacks Friday, which left nearly 130 people dead and hundreds injured, have changed the contours of the political landscape and thrust foreign policy and national security into the presidential debate, where Mr. Graham is hoping his experience will be a boon.

The 60-year-old has built a reputation as a defense hawk on Capitol Hill and has wrapped his entire presidential campaign around the notion that he is most prepared to bolster the nation’s military and thwart terrorist attacks.

“After 9/11, we created an authorization that would allow us to do what was necessary to go after al Qaeda,” Mr. Graham said. “We need an authorization to do the same to go after ISIL.”

Also at issue is a broader question over Mr. Obama’s authority to sign off on a major escalation of the war against the Islamic State last year by sending missiles and warplanes into Syria to strike the terrorist group’s strongholds there.

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