As President Obama readies a national address on his strategy towards ISIS, congressional opinions are all over the place. Many members are convinced the White House will need congressional approval for military intervention; others insist the president already has the authority he needs to act.
Some want a spirited debate, others are effectively telling administration officials, “Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.”
And then there’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s been pretty quiet on the issue of late, and who seems to have come up with an unusual position. For example, here’s the first paragraph of a piece in The Hill today.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Tuesday that President Obama should seek approval from Congress for any plan he has for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
And here’s the fifth paragraph in the same piece.
A Republican leadership aide said McConnell is not necessarily calling for a vote on a new use-of-force resolution.
Oh. So the Republicans’ Senate leader believes the president should seek congressional approval, but that doesn’t mean McConnell is calling for a vote on extending congressional approval.
Perhaps Obama should seek lawmakers’ approval so McConnell can say, “No”?
The Kentucky Republican added yesterday that he intended to tell Obama in a private meeting today that he should seek congressional support, though according to a White House aide, McConnell “did not raise the authorization issue with Obama” during today’s discussion.
As for the rest of the congressional leadership, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said practically nothing about his expectations and hasn’t called for any course of action. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has urged members to have a debate on the national-security issue, but has not specifically called for an authorization vote.
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is apparently taking a wait-and-see attitude.
With his job as majority leader hanging in the balance ahead of the closely contested Senate elections, Reid declined before and after the meeting to address whether ISIL should get a vote.“I’m inclined to not rush into everything,” he told one reporter. “I’m just going to wait and try to get the facts before I jump off on something you read on the Internet someplace.”
There are multiple accounts reporting President Obama believes he already has the legal authority to proceed without explicit congressional authorization – a position that should, but probably won’t, generate pushback from Capitol Hill. The way the debate is shaping up, it seems a presidential decision to circumvent lawmakers would be met with sighs of relief, constitutional obligations notwithstanding.