Rep. Schiff Calls for Debate and Vote on ISIS War Authorization During Lame Duck in Letter to Speaker Boehner

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee and author of legislation providing a limited and narrow authorization for use of military force against ISIL, sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner calling on him to schedule a debate and vote on a new war authorization against ISIS during the lame duck session after the midterm election.  During his press conference today, President Obama called for Congress to approve a new authorization for use of military force against ISIS.

The letter is below:

Dear Speaker Boehner:

As you prepare for the session that will close out the 113th Congress, I urge you to schedule time for consideration of an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL.

As you know, American forces have been engaged in combat against ISIL since early August with operations currently underway against targets in both Iraq and Syria.  President Obama has made repeated reports, as required by the War Powers Resolution, detailing these operations.  Now, after three months of presidentially-directed airstrikes and other activities undertaken to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” ISIL, Congress must meet the obligations of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution by deciding whether to grant the president the power to conduct this new war in the Middle East.

The use of the 2001 AUMF as legal justification for current the military action requires an extraordinarily broad and problematic reading of that measure. While ISIL may share al Qaeda’s hatred for the United States and the West, the group did not exist in 2001 and had no role in the 9/11 attacks. Nor is ISIL affiliated with or aiding al Qaeda, having been expressly repudiated by the Zawahiri leadership, and, despite reports of talks between the two groups, little evidence of an alliance between them.   

Vehement opposition to Bashar al Assad’s brutal government in Syria and the harshly sectarian policies of Nouri al Maliki in Iraq, not 9/11 or allegiance to Osama bin Laden, has fueled the rise of ISIL and allowed it to capture a huge swathe of territory in those two countries.  From this redoubt, ISIL threatens tens of millions and the group’s extreme violence and barbarity, including the recent mass murder of a Sunni tribe in Iraq’s Anbar province, cannot be underestimated.

I believe that the threat to core American foreign policy interests and our national security from ISIL is sufficient to warrant military force as an element of a multifaceted campaign.  But, I also believe that no President has the power to commit the nation’s sons and daughters to war without authorization from Congress.  This is not a decision that can or should wait until 2015; this action was begun during the sitting of the 113th Congress and it well within our ability to authorize it properly before adjourning sine die. 

In September I introduced a draft Joint Resolution (HJ Res 125) that provides for an 18 month authorization for continued airstrikes and limited special operations activities in Iraq and Syria and against ISIL.  While I believe that my proposal merits consideration, whether it, or some other  form of authorization, is ultimately taken up, the most important thing is for us to do our duty to American people and the Constitution.  I look forward to working with you on this most important issue.