Obama Tells Congressional Leaders He Won’t Seek Authority on Next Steps on Iraq

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Obama told top members of Congress Wednesday that he won't need to ask for congressional permission on the next steps he will take on the crisis in Iraq.

"The president just basically briefed us on the situation in Iraq, indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from us for steps he might take, and indicated he would keep us posted," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after a White House meeting about Iraq.

While top Republicans had been highly critical of Obama earlier in the week for not providing a plan on Iraq, their tenor has died down. McConnell characterized the meeting by saying they "had a good discussion."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had said Tuesday that the administration doesn't "need any more authority than they already have to do whatever they need to do there."

Despite no signs from the White House that it will formally ask Congress for authority to take any kind of military action, there are pledges to keep leaders informed. The White House said the president "asked each of the leaders for their view of the current situation and pledged to continue consulting closely with Congress going forward."

"It was a good meeting. Everybody seems satisfied. The president is going to keep us as informed as he can as this process moves forward," Reid said back at the Capitol Wednesday.

While top Democratic leaders have asserted that Obama retains such an authority, some Democrats question it and want Congress to be able to weigh in. The administration could use the 2001 Authorized Use of Military Force resolution, for instance, but the legality of such a move is still unclear.

The leaders wouldn't divulge what options the administration is weighing to respond to the violence in the region. Obama has already ruled out sending on-the-ground combat troops, which is something that congressional Democrats have stood against. The U.S. will be sending up to 275 armed forces to provide embassy security.

Earlier in the day, the Associated Press reported that Obama is moving away from military airstrikes as a response.

Obama updated congressional leaders on the U.S. response to diminish the crisis by "urging Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian agendas and to come together with a sense of national unity" and American efforts to strengthen Iraqi security forces in their fight against the militants, according to the White House readout of the meeting.

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