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House Judiciary Chair: Obama Should Seek Congressional Approval to Expand Fight Against Islamic State

"President Obama did not do that when he engaged with Libya, and when he then sought to do that in Syria, he got tremendous blowback, bipartisan blowback."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, during the committee's hearing to discuss the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act. The committee in the Republican-led House is preparing to cast its first votes on immigration this year, on a tough enforcement-focused measure that Democrats and immigrant groups are protesting loudly. Credit: AP

President Barack Obama not only should seek congressional authorization if he chooses to expand the battle against the Islamic State into Syria, but he would likely have congressional support, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) told TheBlaze.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, during the committee's hearing to discuss the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act. The committee in the Republican-led House is preparing to cast its first votes on immigration this year, on a tough enforcement-focused measure that Democrats and immigrant groups are protesting loudly. Credit: AP House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (AP)

“I think if he's going to take action in Syria, or a broader range of actions, he should seek Congress's authorization to take those actions,” Goodlatte said. “Given the environment we're in right now, depending on what he would ask for, he's likely to get bipartisan support.”

Meanwhile, the White House indicated that Obama has the authority he needs, but would welcome congressional action.

Obama met at the White House Tuesday with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The meeting came on the eve of a prime time national address on dealing with the Islamic State, the Sunni militant groups that has carried out terrorist attacks throughout Iraq and Syria and beheaded two American journalists. Obama later ordered airstrikes in Iraq.

"The president told the Leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night," said a White House news release describing the meeting. "He reiterated his belief that the nation is stronger and our efforts more effective when the President and Congress work together to combat a national security threat like ISIL. The President told the Leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL."

As the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Goodlatte is the point man in the pending House of Representatives lawsuit alleging Obama's executive overreach violates the constitutional separation of powers, which he spoke about at a Judicial Watch panel on Tuesday.

The White House has pointed out that it has complied with the War Powers Act by notifying Congress on actions in Iraq. Some members have said there should be congressional approval, while others – such as former Justice Department attorney John Yoo – say the 2002 congressional authorization on Iraq allows the president to proceed with action in Iraq.

TheBlaze asked, in the context of separation of powers, if Obama would need approval from Congress to expand the military operation against the Islamic State.

“This is an area where the president has his strongest stand,” Goodlatte told TheBlaze. “He is the commander-in-chief of our armed forces under the Constitution. However, the war making power is reserved in Article 1 to the Congress.”

He said that over time, there has been tension between the executive and legislative branches over war.

“When the president needs to act quickly, it wouldn't be possible to bring the Congress together to debate and pass a resolution for the authority to do certain things,” Goodlatte said. “On the other hand, other longer term objectives that do allow for time for Congress to be consulted we think do require that Congress be consulted.”

He cited that former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all gained congressional authorization to take military action in certain instances. He said that Congress was left out of a say when the president ordered extended airstrikes in Libya in 2011, and last year failed to get support when he did turn to Congress to support striking Syria over the use of chemical weapons.

“President Obama did not do that when he engaged with Libya, and when he then sought to do that in Syria, he got tremendous blowback, bipartisan blowback,” he said. “I think if he's going to take action in Syria, or a broader range of actions, he should seek Congress's authorization to take those actions. Given the environment we're in right now, depending on what he would ask for, he's likely to get bipartisan support.”

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