Posted: Thursday, August 28th 2014 at 7:38am
On Syria, Obama faces familiar questions on Congress' role
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama faces a familiar question as he contemplates airstrikes in Syria: Should Congress have a say in his decision?
Obama was barreling toward strikes last summer when he abruptly announced that he first wanted approval from congressional lawmakers. But Congress balked at Obama's request for a vote and the operation was eventually scrapped.
This time around, the White House is suggesting it may not be necessary to get a sign-off from Congress for airstrikes. While cautioning that Obama has made no final decisions, officials say there is a difference between last year's effort to attack Syria's government in retaliation for chemical weapons use and a bombing campaign against Islamic State militants that is now under consideration.
"What we're talking about now is confronting a terrorist group that has sought safe haven in Syria," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said when asked about the prospect of Obama again seeking congressional authorization. "This is a group that poses a threat to Americans in the region and could potentially, down the line, pose a broader threat to American interests and our allies around the globe."
Earlier this month, Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. The militants have been moving with ease between Iraq and Syria, effectively blurring the border between the neighboring nations.
Thus far, there has been little clamor among congressional leaders for Obama to seek approval from Capitol Hill before proceeding with military action in Syria. And with the midterm elections just over two months away, lawmakers may be even less inclined to take a politically risky vote on military action.
"I see no reason to come to Congress because, if he does, it'll just become a circus," Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said this week.
Still, there are notable members of both parties who are calling for a vote if Obama seeks to move into Syria. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a frequent critic of the administration's foreign policy, has said Congress should "certainly" authorize any military action in Syria. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and White House ally, has also called for a vote on the president's broader strategy for going after the Islamic State group.
"I am calling for the mission and objectives for this current significant military action against ISIL to be made clear to Congress, the American people, and our men and women in uniform," said Kaine, using one of the older acronyms for the militant group. "Congress should vote up or down on it."
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