Obama sent a panel of top administration officials to make the
case to Congress for broadening operations against the Sunni
militants, including U.S. air strikes in Syria for the first time,
more strikes in Iraq and more military advisers in Iraq.
In a televised address on Wednesday night, the Democratic president
declared he would lead an alliance to root out Islamic State,
plunging the United States into two conflicts in which nearly every
country in the Middle East has a stake.
The White House argued that Obama does not need Congress' formal
authorization, but wants legislators' support to show a united front
against opponents and to coalition members.
House Speaker John Boehner said Obama had made a "compelling case
for action" but said the president must provide Republicans with
more details about his strategy. "Itís important to give the
president what he has asked for," he told a news conference.
Boehner and other Republican leaders who support Obama's plans must
unite factions within their party, including members deeply
skeptical of Obama's spending plans and those who want the United
States to cut its foreign military involvement.
Boehner said Republican House members have doubts about whether
Obama's plan can accomplish his mission of destroying a militant
group whose fighters have killed thousands of people in recent
"An F-16 is not a strategy. And air strikes alone will not
accomplish what weíre trying to accomplish. The presidentís made
clear that he doesnít want boots on the ground, well somebodyís
boots have to be on the ground," the Ohio representative said.
A House vote could take place as soon as Tuesday on Obama's request
for $500 million to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, one part
of his program.
Islamic State is a Sunni group that embraces a radical vision of a
Middle East ruled along 7th century precepts. Its fighters are
battling a Shi'ite-led government in Iraq and a Syrian government
led by President Bashar al-Assad, a follower of an offshoot of
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has won support from 10 Arab
countries for a "coordinated military campaign" against the
NO DECISIONS ON VOTE
Boehner said no decision had been made on how the House might vote
on Obama's request for authorization and $500 million in funding to
arm and train moderate rebels waging a three-year-long war against
A White House spokesman said the administration would like Congress
to include the authorization in a bill to fund government
operations, called a continuing resolution, that is expected to pass
[to top of second column]
Some senators from both parties said Obama should ask Congress for a
formal authorization to use military force, something that is not
expected before lawmakers leave Washington next week to campaign for
the Nov. 4 congressional elections.
"Our allies would feel much more secure and committed... if they
knew that Congress was behind this," Tennessee Senator Bob Corker,
the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told
The Syrian rebels are seen as a moderate counterpart to both Islamic
State and Assad's government, but lawmakers harbor doubts about the
"There's a real question as to whether we have a Free Syrian Army
and most of the reports I've read ... show so many different groups
and not a high reliability," Republican Representative Rodney
Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, who chairs the House Appropriations
Defense Subcommittee, told reporters.
Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said he would vote
against any resolution arming the Syrian rebels, or any spending
bill with such a measure attached.
Administration officials see the vote as crucial to its efforts to
build an international coalition. But the timing is tricky, as such
a move could be seen as a "war vote" by a war-weary public, just two
months before congressional elections.
Any vote to authorize military action could prove especially tough
for Democrats, whose liberal base tends to be wary of war, as the
party tries to hold a slim U.S. Senate majority.
The beheadings of two U.S. journalists by Islamic State militants
coalesced support for action from both parties.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder, Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey,
Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by John Whitesides and
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