Congress Divided Over Iraq Strikes

Some on the Hill support the move, but Boehner says Obama “needs a long-term strategy.”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (R) questions former Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson during his confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security with committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) (L) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the Senate, Johnson would replace Secretary Janet Napolitano who left DHS in September.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Aug. 8, 2014, 6:47 a.m.

Just hours after Pres­id­ent Obama’s an­nounce­ment late Thursday that the U.S. would strike lim­ited tar­gets in Ir­aq, there already ap­pear to be some di­vi­sions in Con­gress about wheth­er the in­ter­ven­tion is war­ran­ted—or not enough.

On re­cess un­til Sept. 8, Con­gress will have little form­al say in Obama’s Ir­aq policy. But the pres­id­ent vowed to con­tin­ue con­sult­ing law­makers, and a num­ber of key lead­ers quickly voiced their sup­port for the air strikes against the mil­it­ant group Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in, a Michigan Demo­crat, and his coun­ter­part in the House, Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Buck McK­eon, said the pres­id­ent’s ac­tions were jus­ti­fied by the events on the ground. House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi of Cali­for­nia and House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er of Mary­land de­scribed the air­strikes as “ap­pro­pri­ate” and “ne­ces­sary,” re­it­er­at­ing the need for the Ir­aqis to form a more in­clus­ive gov­ern­ment.

But con­gres­sion­al hawks were quick to point out that Obama wasn’t do­ing enough, ar­guing that the goal of U.S. in­ter­ven­tion should be to de­feat IS­IS. Re­pub­lic­an Sens. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­o­lina is­sued a joint state­ment call­ing on the pres­id­ent to leave be­hind the at­tempt to con­tain IS­IS and present a “stra­tegic ap­proach” for stop­ping them.

“The pres­id­ent needs to de­vise a com­pre­hens­ive strategy to de­grade IS­IS,” the sen­at­ors wrote. “This should in­clude the pro­vi­sion of mil­it­ary and oth­er as­sist­ance to our Kur­d­ish, Ir­aqi, and Syr­i­an part­ners who are fight­ing IS­IS. It should in­clude U.S. air­strikes against IS­IS lead­ers, forces, and po­s­i­tions both in Ir­aq and Syr­ia. It should in­clude sup­port to Sunni Ir­aqis who seek to res­ist IS­IS. And none of this should be con­tin­gent on the form­a­tion of a new gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad.”

House Speak­er John Boehner also called for a com­pre­hens­ive ef­fort.

“The pres­id­ent needs a long-term strategy—one that defines suc­cess as com­plet­ing our mis­sion, not keep­ing polit­ic­al prom­ises—and he needs to build the sup­port to sus­tain it,” Boehner said. “If the pres­id­ent is will­ing to put for­ward such a strategy, I am ready to listen and work with him.”

Alabama Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Brad­ley Byrne said the danger IS­IS presents to the Amer­ic­an people war­rants great­er in­volve­ment.

“While I want U.S. in­volve­ment to be lim­ited, we can no longer sit on the side­lines while Ir­aq falls back in­to the hands of ter­ror­ists,” Byrne tweeted.

A few were more cau­tious about get­ting re-in­volved, however. House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Eli­ot En­gel said only that he sup­por­ted the “re­lief ef­fort” and made no men­tion of the air­strikes. And Flor­ida Demo­crat­ic Rep. Alan Grayson took to Twit­ter to push a “No New War” pe­ti­tion, which op­poses U.S. mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Ir­aq and has garnered more than 25,000 sig­na­tures.

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