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Congress taking a pass on authorizing ISIS mission

Most of Congress sees authorizing the use of military force as a luxury -- it's something lawmakers could do, but don't have to do.
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. (Photo by Reuters)
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014.
President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets in August 2014. He publicly called on Congress to authorize the mission in December 2014. He used part of his State of the Union address to urge lawmakers to act in January 2015. At Congress' insistence, the White House even sent draft legislative language to Capitol Hill in February 2015.
But nearly eight months after Obama ordered military strikes, it seems increasingly clear that Congress has no intention of ever doing any work on the U.S. mission. Politico reports:

If anyone wanted further evidence that Congress is stalled in its effort to pass a separate resolution authorizing military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a House hearing Wednesday provided plenty of signs. The House Armed Services Committee advertised its testimony with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey as a discussion of the so-called Authorization for the Use of Military Force, but the issue hardly came up.

To be sure, this is not the result of pure legislative laziness. On the contrary, there's a real, substantive policy disagreement at the core of the inaction -- some lawmakers believe the draft resolution sent to Congress by President Obama goes too far, while some believe it doesn't go far enough.
Lawmakers could try writing their own resolution -- in other words, the legislative branch could try actual legislating -- but that wouldn't resolve the underlying difference.
And so, nothing has happened; nothing is happening; and chances are, nothing will happen.
Does this mean Obama's military offensive against ISIS will have to end? Actually, no, and that's ultimately the root of the problem.
For some of us, Congress authorizing the use of military force is a constitutional necessity. Lawmakers have an obligation and a duty under our system of government to take these matters seriously.
But most of Congress apparently has a different perspective, seeing the authorization of force as a luxury -- it's something lawmakers could do, and it might be nice if they approved a resolution, but at the end of the day, it's a procedural extravagance that Congress can choose to forgo.
Maybe the Senate will pick up the slack? Don't count on it.

The Senate doesn't appear to be in any greater hurry to resolve the issue than the House. In a hearing on the proposed war resolution before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) played down any chance that a vote is in the offing. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which shares lead jurisdiction over the issue, has no plans to hold more hearings on the proposal, an aide said Wednesday. "I am increasingly concerned that Congress will take the path of least resistance and least responsibility and let the resolution die," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told POLITICO. "The cause has lost momentum. The reality is there is strong bipartisan majority here that supports talking action against ISIL and it would be a terrible abdication of our responsibility for this to die of apathy."

And yet, it's happening anyway. The mission will continue, indefinitely, while Congress focuses its attention elsewhere, routinely complaining that the president has too much power and doesn't work with lawmakers enough on matters of national security.
Taking a step back, there is a great irony to the larger political debate. A wide variety of right-wing voices, including several congressional Republicans, insist that President Obama is doing "nothing" to confront ISIS, as if thousands of deadly airstrikes don't count.
It's ironic, of course, because in this scenario, one institution really is doing "nothing," and it's not the White House.