McConnell: Obama Tells Congressional Leaders He Won’t Seek Authority for Next Steps on Iraq

There was no outrage from top Republicans following a critical meeting on the unfolding crisis.

President Obama meets with Congressional leadership in the Oval Office of the White House on June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
June 18, 2014, 1:16 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama told top mem­bers of Con­gress on Wed­nes­day that he won’t need to ask for con­gres­sion­al per­mis­sion for the next steps he will take on the crisis in Ir­aq, ac­cord­ing to the Sen­ate’s top Re­pub­lic­an.

“The pres­id­ent just ba­sic­ally briefed us on the situ­ation in Ir­aq, in­dic­ated he didn’t feel he had any need for au­thor­ity from us for steps he might take, and in­dic­ated he would keep us pos­ted,” Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell told re­port­ers after a White House meet­ing about Ir­aq.

While top Re­pub­lic­ans had been highly crit­ic­al of Obama earli­er in the week for not provid­ing a plan on Ir­aq, the ten­or of their cri­ti­cism has died down. Mc­Con­nell char­ac­ter­ized the meet­ing by say­ing they “had a good dis­cus­sion.”

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id had said Tues­day that the ad­min­is­tra­tion doesn’t “need any more au­thor­ity than they already have to do whatever they need to do there.”

In a state­ment later, Re­id said, “the Pres­id­ent said he is not cur­rently con­sid­er­ing ac­tions that would re­quire Con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al but was very clear that he would con­sult with Con­gress if that changed.”

A seni­or Demo­crat­ic aide briefed on the meet­ing said Mc­Con­nell’s com­ments about con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al mis­char­ac­ter­ized the sub­stance of the meet­ing.

House Speak­er John Boehner didn’t is­sue a state­ment on the meet­ing, but a House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship aide said there was no dis­agree­ment with how Mc­Con­nell de­scribed wheth­er Obama would seek con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al.

Des­pite no signs from the White House that it will form­ally ask Con­gress for au­thor­ity to take any kind of mil­it­ary ac­tion, there are pledges to keep lead­ers in­formed. The White House said the pres­id­ent “asked each of the lead­ers for their view of the cur­rent situ­ation and pledged to con­tin­ue con­sult­ing closely with Con­gress go­ing for­ward.”

“It was a good meet­ing. Every­body seems sat­is­fied. The pres­id­ent is go­ing to keep us as in­formed as he can as this pro­cess moves for­ward,” Re­id said back at the Cap­it­ol on Wed­nes­day.

While top Demo­crat­ic lead­ers have as­ser­ted that Obama re­tains such an au­thor­ity, some Demo­crats ques­tion it and want Con­gress to be able to weigh in. The ad­min­is­tra­tion could use the 2001 Au­thor­ized Use of Mil­it­ary Force res­ol­u­tion, for in­stance, but the leg­al­ity of such a move is still un­clear.

The lead­ers wouldn’t di­vulge what op­tions the ad­min­is­tra­tion is weigh­ing to re­spond to the vi­ol­ence in the re­gion. Obama has already ruled out send­ing on-the-ground com­bat troops, which is something that con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats have stood against. The U.S. will be send­ing up to 275 armed forces to provide em­bassy se­cur­ity.

Earli­er in the day, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted that Obama is mov­ing away from mil­it­ary air­strikes as a re­sponse.

Obama up­dated con­gres­sion­al lead­ers on the U.S. re­sponse to di­min­ish the crisis by “ur­ging Ir­aq’s lead­ers to set aside sec­tari­an agen­das and to come to­geth­er with a sense of na­tion­al unity,” ac­cord­ing to the White House readout of the meet­ing, and also briefed the law­makers on Amer­ic­an ef­forts to strengthen Ir­aqi se­cur­ity forces in their fight against the mil­it­ants.

This story has been up­dated to re­flect new com­ments about the meet­ing.

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