Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) on Wednesday released the text of legislation he hopes to pass in the coming weeks that would authorize President Barack Obama to use military force against Islamic State or any of the other active terrorist groups around the world.
The proposed bill was released just a day after Islamic State beheaded a second U.S. journalist, which prompted both Republicans and Democrats to call on Obama for a detailed plan on how to stop the group.
Obama has been reluctant to commit ground troops to fight Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria. But the events of the last two weeks seem to have forced Obama to reassess the situation.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama said the U.S. goal is now to “destroy” Islamic State, although he later seemed to back down by saying the goal should be to make the group into a “manageable problem.”
In the wake of the execution of two U.S. reporters, and ongoing evidence that Islamic State is looking for ways to launch attacks within the United States, many members of Congress are already much less equivocal than Obama. Wolf said his bill is aimed at ending the ambiguity surrounding what authority Obama has related to Islamic State.
“For far too long the Obama Administration and the Congress have been debating whether or not authority exists for action to address this threat,” Wolf said. “This resolution would provide clear authority for the president and our military, working with coalition partners, to go after these terrorists, whether in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere.”
Congress authorized the executive branch in 2001 and 2002 to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but some have said those authorities don’t apply to the current threats in Syria and Iraq. The Obama administration has even asked Congress to terminate that authority as it relates to operations in Iraq.
“We cannot continue operating on outdated authorities passed 13 years ago; it is time for this Congress to vote,” Wolf said.
Wolf’s two-page bill is called the Authorization for Use of Military Force against International Terrorism Act.
It would authorize the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those countries, organizations, or persons associated with or supporting terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and its regional affiliates, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram.” It covers any other emerging regional terrorist groups that share a “common violent extremist ideology.”
Wolf also plans to propose a bill updating the War Powers Resolution, which is aimed at cementing in place rules the president would have to follow before entering into a military conflict.
“This long-overdue reform of the War Powers Resolution would address structural issues that prevent more dialogue and consultation on military actions,” Wolf said. “It codifies the consultation process between the branches and would require the Congress to take an up-or-down vote on any military action taken by the president.”
Wolf’s bill or something close to it is likely to find support from several members of the House and Senate. Last week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would support the authorization of the use of force against the Islamic State.
In the House, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said over the weekend that the administration needs a military plan to contain the terrorist group within Syria. Engel is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
After the death of a second reporter at the hands of Islamic State, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the threat posed by the terrorist group is growing daily, and that one step is to arm people who are fighting the group, also known as ISIS.
“Working with key allies, the United States needs to be acting urgently to arm the Kurds on the ground who are fighting them, and targeting ISIS from the air with drone strikes,” he said.
Read Wolf’s proposed legislation here: