Here's Why the House May Never Pass Obama's Request to Use Force Against ISIL
Republicans don't trust President Obama, and both the White House and the GOP may prefer the status quo.
It has been mere hours since President Obama sent Congress a draft authorization for the use of military force to combat the Islamic State, and the measure already is in trouble.
Rampant skepticism from both sides of the aisle threatens to scuttle the bill in the House before debate even begins. The problem, as described by several members, including a high-ranking Republican involved in the AUMF negotiations, is that there may be no legislative text that can thread the needle between hawks who want a full-scale military campaign against ISIS; libertarian and progressive anti-war members who want no intervention at all; and members who would approve the use of force, but only if it is specifically restricted in geography, length and scope.
The result could be a failure to pass any kind of authorization, which would simply mean the status quo—and the Obama administration proceeding with its operations against ISIS.
At a private meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday morning, Speaker John Boehner urged his members to "keep your powder dry," according to sources in the room, intimating that they should not outright reject the AUMF before they have a chance to change it.
He later told the press that the president's text is only the first step in what will be a long legislative process, complete with committee hearings and markups. But he added his own apprehension about what Capitol Hill sources described as a chorus of irreconcilable demands from far-flung ideological pockets of House members.
"The president's point is that he wants to dismantle and destroy ISIS. I haven't seen a strategy yet that I think will accomplish that," he added.
Boehner's view is consistent with the more hawkish corners of the GOP Conference, and one that is likely a majority viewpoint in the party: Many Republicans are reluctant to vote for an authorization that they see as overly restrictive and ill-defined. Asked whether the language is fuzzy, White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday said, "intentionally so."
Adding to the problem is that although members see an urgency to confronting ISIS, many do not see much urgency in passing an AUMF. There already are some 3,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is engaged in a campaign of airstrikes. They are asking Congress for permission to continue the campaign that already is being waged, yet if Congress does not pass this AUMF, prior authorizations will still allow the administration to continue its military activity. Earnest emphasized Wednesday that the administration believes it does not need a new authorization to continue its operations against ISIS
That leads some Republicans to question whether the political will exists to push an authorization through.
The subtext to all those doubts is an overriding lack of GOP trust in the Obama administration to carry out this military campaign, and already there are signs of communication breakdowns between the White House and the House. White House counsel Neil Eggleston briefed House GOP leadership and relevant committee chairmen Tuesday night, but Republicans are taking issue with what they see as miscommunication or misinformation on the part of the administration.
"Based on a briefing last night, the White House is using a much more restrictive interpretation of 'enduring offensive operations' than expected, and that is potentially a major problem," a House GOP leadership aide said, speaking anonymously to illuminate private discussions.
Other Republicans who sit on relevant committees said there had been little to no communication from the administration in the lead up to the text being released.
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