Obama Tells Congress He Has All the Authority He Needs to Go After ISIS
In an Oval Office meeting Tuesday, the president said he would welcome, but doesn't need, the support of Congress.
President Obama on Tuesday told congressional leaders he doesn't need legislative approval to pursue the military strategy against the Islamic State that he plans to outline to the nation on Wednesday night.
But, according to the White House, Obama also told the leaders that if Congress wants to show his support anyway, it can go right ahead.
The news came after the president gathered the top two congressional officials from each party in the Oval Office to brief them on his strategy to defeat ISIS, one day before he delivers his prime-time address.
The biggest question entering the meeting was whether Obama would seek a formal vote of authorization for his military campaign, as he did last year – unsuccessfully – when he wanted to launch missile strikes against the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.
This time around, Obama told lawmakers he doesn't need them to sign off, according to a White House readout of the meeting.
The president told the leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night."
The leaders in attendance were House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Vice President Joe Biden also sat in.
The president has already said he is likely to need more money to expand the military effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria beyond the airstrikes he is currently ordering in Iraq. With that in mind, Obama told the leaders that helpful action by Congress, while not necessary, would be "welcome."
He reiterated his belief that the nation is stronger and our efforts more effective when the president and Congress work together to combat a national security threat like ISIL. The president told the leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL. The President and his team look forward to continuing extensive consultation with Congress."
According to a separate description of the meeting provided by the speaker's office, Boehner urged Obama to move quickly while giving him support for his plans to aid the Iraqi army and moderate opposition groups in Syria.
The speaker made it clear that ISIL is preparing to fight us, and that as we learned in Syria, the longer we wait, the more difficult our choices become. It is in the best interests of the United States and our allies to put in place a strategy that rises to the challenge of the threat we face, and takes the fight directly to ISIL in a decisive fashion, the speaker said."
A Boehner aide said he could not provide additional information about the discussion surrounding the questions of congressional authorization and funding.
The speaker has criticized Obama for lacking a strategy against terrorists in Iraq and Syria for months, but the statement put out on Tuesday was more supportive.
The speaker stated he would support the president if he chose to deploy the military to help train and play an advisory role for the Iraqi Security Forces and assist with lethal targeting of ISIL leadership. Lastly, the speaker made clear that the administration should re-examine our border and homeland policies and authorities to determine whether there are loopholes or weaknesses that could expose the homeland to an immediate ISIL-linked attack."
While some members of both parties have said Congress needs to approve whatever military action Obama intends to order, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told lawmakers privately last week that the House would only hold a vote if Obama explicitly requested one.
Speaking to reporters earlier Tuesday, Boehner deflected questions about what Congress might do until after he met with Obama.