faces a tough sell in Congress for Islamic State strategy
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[August 30, 2014]
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama has pledged to consult Congress about any expanded military
action against Islamic State militants operating in Iraq and Syria, but
support from the divided legislature is unlikely to come quickly - if at
Republicans are generally reluctant to vote for Obama's policy
initiatives. And many of the president's fellow Democrats are deeply
wary of any more foreign military involvement after over a decade of
war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If Congress were to be asked to approve extended military action or
funding, it would probably be at a politically sensitive time just
weeks before the Nov. 4 congressional elections in which Republicans
hope to gain seats.
If the administration decides it needs additional money for expanded
operations against the Islamic State, it will need to secure quick
action in Congress or wait until after the elections.
It will be easier for Obama to win support from other countries as
well as the American public if he presents a united front with
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution think tank said
congressional backing would also help Obama "cover his political
flank" by "not doing something that only he and fellow Democrats...
will be accountable for should it go south."
U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said his panel had asked
administration officials to testify in September about their plans
for combating Islamic State.
"If there's a military operation, we're still unclear what's going
to happen in terms of congressional involvement," a Democratic
congressional aide said. "Election-year politics is going to play a
A Reuters-IPSOS poll on Monday showed only 12 percent of Americans
favor funding and supporting a multinational intervention in Iraq.
Two Senate Democrats - Tim Kaine of Virginia and Chris Murphy of
Connecticut - have argued that under the U.S. Constitution Obama
must get Congress' authorization for expanded military action in
either Iraq or Syria.
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And House Democrats James McGovern of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee
of California and Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina wrote to
Speaker John Boehner this week and asked for a debate and a vote on
the anti-Islamic State action.
Obama would be unlikely to face legal penalties if he goes ahead on
his own but would face growing political pressure if the conflict
escalates, said Stephen Vladeck, a professor of law at American
"If in fact we become more and more involved in military operations
against ISIS, the political pressure is going to ratchet up on both
Congress and the White House to reach some kind of agreement,"
Vladeck said, using the acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Congress could avoid a tough vote on whether to authorize military
action by acting only on the question of funding.
The Pentagon said its current Iraq operations cost $7.5 million per
day - more than half a billion dollars so far - but those costs
would jump with a big escalation.
(Editing by David Storey and Jonathan Oatis)
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