Paul Ryan Orders Closer Look at Authorizing War Against ISIS (New York Times)
WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan has ordered the House majority leader and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to begin talking to members about the feasibility of a measure that would authorize war against the Islamic State militant group.
Mr. Ryan’s belief that Congress should exercise its constitutional role and institutional voice on matters of war puts him on a potential collision path with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and many other congressional Republicans. They argue that President Obama already has the authority to wage war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and they are loath to debate the issue in an election year.
But Mr. Ryan said Thursday that he had instructed Representative Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, and Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to begin “the process of gathering ideas and having listening sessions with our members about whether and how we could do” an authorization for use of military force.
Mr. Royce, with many other lawmakers, has been reluctant to pursue an authorization. But he said that over the last month, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, Calif., he had seen a change of views among many lawmakers, and on Thursday, he began to meet with committee members on the subject.
“As I’ve said before, if we can get an A.U.M.F. done that ensures our commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat ISIS, I want to move it,” Mr. Royce said in a prepared statement. “But ultimately, it is going to be up to President Obama to lead. Containment has failed. The administration already has the authority it needs to take the fight to these radical Islamist terrorists, and it needs to step up.”
The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said he welcomed the move but questioned whether Mr. Ryan could actually get the measure through the House. “He has not made hardly any progress that anybody can detect in passing an authorization to use military force against ISIL,” Mr. Earnest said.
Congress voted to authorize force in 2001, to respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and in 2002, for the invasion of Iraq. While the Obama administration has long said those measures provide all the authority it needs for new uses of force, Mr. Obama has also asked Congress as recently as last month for another bill to confront the Islamic State.
Republicans — who, like Democrats, still feel burned by their vote in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq — have been reluctant to debate the matter and to give Mr. Obama more war powers.
Mr. McConnell has repeatedly rejected the idea of a new authorization, saying he does not wish to restrain the next president with such a measure.
But the push from Mr. Ryan, who has tended in his incipient speakership to yield policy making to committee leaders, was meaningful to supporters.
“I am encouraged that there is a new interest in leadership taking up the A.U.M.F.,” said Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “I don’t know if he will bring the full weight of his office behind it.”
Mr. Schiff has spent a lot of time talking with the Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California, about language that would be acceptable to both parties. One possibility, Mr. Schiff said, was to avoid restrictions on ground forces that would offend Republicans, but to include legislative guard rails that would allow any member to force a vote on the use of such forces. “I don’t think there are any deal breakers so far in my discussions with G.O.P. members,” he said. Mr. Nunes declined to comment.
But it is unclear how much political muscle Mr. Ryan will use, especially when he is deeply interested in a broader policy agenda to set the stage for Republicans’ race for the White House.
He also remains a strong and at times astringent critic of the president. When asked in an interview with Katie Couric this week whether he had been moved by Mr. Obama’s tears as he spoke about the schoolchildren gunned down in 2012 in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Ryan said: “I was affected by it, but I thought we should’ve had the same kind of reaction when James Foley was beheaded, when San Bernardino and Paris occurred. That’s the kind of reaction I had when those occurred.”
Yet a growing number of Republicans believe Congress has a responsibility to act. A handful of Republican senators have signed on to a measure to authorize force, and other prominent House Republicans are also supportive of the idea.
“When we send troops into battle, they need to know that they have the full backing of the government,” Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview last month.
Source: New York Times
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