House Republicans are laying groundwork to capitalize on widespread discontent with President Obama's handling of ISIS, scheduling a series of hearings and meetings aimed at drafting a plan to defeat the jihadist group.
While the Republican Conference has no authority over military operations or nearly enough influence with the Obama White House to shape its counterterrorism strategy, lawmakers' intent is to force the president's hand after spending weeks during recess hearing from constituents who are worried the United States is not doing enough against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
That could include legislation within the next few weeks, House leaders told their members in a conference call on Wednesday.
"The overwhelming consensus was that not only do we need a plan, but we will have a plan, and we will have an unfettered and determined approach to make sure we stop this process that is growing like a cancer in the Middle East," said Rep. Mark Meadows, a junior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
On the call, Speaker John Boehner told members that, while traveling the country on behalf of candidates over the past several weeks, leaders heard considerable anxiety from the public about the militant group and the limited U.S. response thus far.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Obama's response to ISIS's rapid gains, saying it revealed the misplaced priorities of the government bureaucracy. As an example, he seized on an article on a U.S. Forest Service blog providing safety tips for making s'mores.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers briefed members on ISIS's growing ranks, noting that Qaida affiliates have been joining the group over the past several weeks.
His committee, along with Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Armed Services, will hold hearings next week about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the threat it poses to U.S. interests, and the appropriate U.S. response.
That all will likely lead to legislative language, if only in an attempt to force Obama's hand, said Rep. John Fleming, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. "There was nothing described, but I just got the sense that leadership wants to do something on that."
There have been increasing calls from within Congress for Obama to act, especially after ISIS released a gruesome video showing the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff—the second such video in as many weeks.
The administration started airstrikes in Iraq last month, and for the action to continue beyond 60 days, an authorizing resolution might be necessary under the War Powers Act. Leaders of the Foreign Affairs Committee have already said they want Congress to pass an authorizing bill by the beginning of next month. But with so much uncertainty about the U.S. strategy and little information coming out of the administration, many lawmakers remain unclear about the need for such legislation.
"For far too long, the Obama administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat," said Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, who is offering a bill authorizing action. "This resolution would provide clear authority for the president and our military, working with coalition partners, to go after these terrorists, whether in Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere."
GOP leaders have not said if they will support Wolf's bill.