Members of the House clamoring for a vote on President Obama's expanded war against the Islamic State will have to wait until 2015 – if they get one at all.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told the New York Times that while he now sees a need for a more extensive congressional debate on the military campaign, he doesn't think it should occur during the lame-duck session after the November midterm elections.
Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this."
Congress approved a narrow part of Obama's strategy against ISIS earlier this month before they returned to the campaign trail, but that measure only dealt with authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels, not the campaign of airstrikes that the president ordered this week.
The expansion of the war from Iraq to Syria prompted many lawmakers to call for a new vote on the grounds that the 2001 authorization of force that Congress passed is outdated and shouldn't apply to the offensive against ISIS.
.@SpeakerBoehner shld bring Members back to debate/vote on AUMF that supports current mission but ensures no ground troops. No Iraq War 2.0— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) September 23, 2014
The message both from Boehner and the White House on the possibility and necessity of congressional authorization has been muddled, to say the least.
President Obama has said he would "welcome" the support of Congress, but he has argued he doesn't explicitly need it. Instead, his administration says the 2001 authorization – passed immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – applies to the current war against terrorists, and that the airstrikes in Iraq are further justified by the 2003 congressional authorization for the use of force there.
Boehner has backed Obama's efforts, but he also thinks Congress should weigh in with a formal force authorization. The problem for him is that he continues to believe that request must first come from the president and should not be initiated by Congress alone.
Could Obama change his mind and submit the request Boehner wants? The speaker suggested he might.
I would suggest to you that early next year, assuming that we continue in this effort, there may be that discussion and there may be that request from the president."
The unfortunate silver lining for congressional advocates of a vote is that they'll likely have plenty of time to weigh in: The White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly warned that the campaign against ISIS could take "years."