House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) held his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, and expressed his dissatisfaction with U.S. policy towards ISIS targets in the Middle East. “We’ve been operating without an overarching strategy to deal with this terrorist threat,” the Republican leader complained.
Of course, that leads to some fairly awkward questions for the House Speaker. If Boehner doesn’t like the war strategy, why doesn’t Congress try to help shape that policy with a resolution authorizing the mission? If GOP leaders disapprove of how our national security policy is progressing, why are they taking no action whatsoever other than whining at press conferences?
When a reporter broached the subject, Boehner dismissed the very idea of Congress doing its job.
“You can’t have an AUMF that calls for less authority than the president has today under existing law. Now, as you heard me say last week, it’s time for the president to withdraw this request and send up a robust request that we can pass. And the president can help work to get it passed.“But it’s time for the president to get serious about taking on this threat. Because he is not, today.”
Just so we’re clear, President Obama is the only elected leader in Washington who’s done actual work as it relates to ISIS. Nearly 10 months ago, the president launched a military offensive against ISIS targets. Nearly seven months ago, Obama urged lawmakers to authorize the mission.
Boehner, meanwhile, has done literally nothing in terms of substantive work. He’s written no resolutions; he’s brought no debates to the floor; and he’s articulated no strategy.
When the Speaker says he wants to the president “to get serious,” he doesn’t appear to understand how ridiculous this line really is.
To reiterate our discussion from a few weeks ago, it’s important to understand the nuances of Boehner’s whining on this issue. For quite a while, the Speaker said the legislative branch wouldn’t even try to authorize the war unless the executive branch did lawmakers’ work for them – Congress simply would not write its own bill, Boehner said, so it was up to the president to do the legislative work for the legislators.
Obama eventually agreed to write a bill for those whose job it is to write bills, only to discover that Congress doesn’t like his bill. The sensible, mature next move seems fairly obvious: if lawmakers don’t like the resolution the White House wrote, Congress can try doing its own homework, writing its own version, and then vote on it.
But Boehner doesn’t want to. He wants the president to imagine what might make Republicans happy, then write another draft, at which point GOP leaders will let the West Wing know whether or not Congress is satisfied. If Boehner disapproves, presumably it’d be up to Obama to come up with a third. And then a fourth.
I can appreciate the fact that this is not simply a matter of laziness. There are, as we’ve discussed before, significant policy disagreements – between Democrats and Republicans, between the House and the Senate – that are tough to resolve. Some lawmakers believe the draft resolution sent to Congress by President Obama goes too far, while some believe it doesn’t go far enough. Working out a resolution would be hard.
But here’s the fact that Boehner and his cohorts don’t seem to understand: it’s supposed to be hard. When lawmakers authorize the nation to launch a military offensive abroad, it’s difficult by design.
The Speaker, however, hopes to pass the buck, suggesting somehow it’s the White House’s job to write bills for Congress, and if Congress doesn’t like the president’s version, then Capitol Hill will just ignore the issue altogether. In effect, Boehner’s argument is that an ongoing war can just continue – indefinitely – no matter the cost or scope of the mission, and federal lawmakers are prepared to do literally no work whatsoever.
And it’s up to Obama “to get serious.”
For more on this, I hope everyone saw Rachel’s segment last night, including the interview with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mas..), who’s trying to force the House to do its job.