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March 28, 2015

Posts in "Iraq"

February 24, 2015

Watch Live: John Kerry Testifies Before Senate Foreign Relations

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the first time in the 114th Congress on the State Department’s fiscal 2016 budget request. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Full story

February 10, 2015

Durbin: ‘Lives Are in the Balance’ in ISIS War Authorization

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Biivesl Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Lives are in the balance,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin told reporters Tuesday on the importance of getting the balance right in a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group.

The No. 2 Democrat spoke at length to reporters after being briefed on the draft resolution presented by President Barack Obama’s top aide and counsel during Tuesday’s party lunch.

He detailed the administration’s plans to have a broad-based authorization that would cover the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, without limiting the fight geographically to Syria and Iraq, as well as the key question of limits on offensive ground operations. The Illinois Democrat also is the ranking member of the Defense appropriations subcommittee.

How does this compare with language the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved last year?
Durbin: “The starting point was the [former Foreign Relations Chairman Robert] Menendez language. Made some changes on it. We’re really working with critical, important language, and it comes down to a phrase or two, and we just have to look at it very closely.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz. finds it unconstitutional, too restrictive to the commander-in-chief. How do you find common ground? Is a three-year time frame enough comfort?

Durbin: “I like the three-year time frame. It means that it will apply to this president during the remainder of his term and to the succeeding president for one year. What it means: whoever’s elected president after Obama has to start thinking immediately about the renewal of AUMF and discussing it with Congress.

“I disagree with John, obviously. John and I see the world quite a bit differently. I think the Constitution delegates to Congress the authority to declare war, and the American people speak through Congress. And if we put limitations on the president about who he can fight, where he can fight, how he can fight — I think that’s consistent with the intention of the Founding Fathers.”

Is the draft crafted to avoid mission creep?

Durbin: “Well, that’s why we always come back to the same phrase — enduring offensive ground operations. As someone noted in our meeting here, incidentally we’re talking about the Department of Defense. So, there is hardly any military operation that cannot be characterized as a defensive operation, and those are exempt. What we limit are enduring offensive. I hate to get into weeds but when you’re talking about the commitment of a nation to war and lives are in the balance, that’s where we have to really dig in.”

What does the proposal do in terms of the 2002 authorization?

Durbin: “The Afghan AUMF continues, and it’s the Iraq resolution that’s being replaced.”

Would 2001 AUMF also be placed on a three-year timeline?

Durbin: “That wasn’t brought up, and I don’t think that’s the proposal.”

Do you have concerns the White House draft would change the Senate Foreign Affairs version with regard to geographic limits?

Durbin: “See now that’s tricky. So, here’s why it’s tricky: If we limit our actions against ISIS to any locale, it really means by argument that there are safe havens they can go to and escape pursuit by the United States. I understand that. We’ve got to be able to pursue non-state, multinational operations wherever they threaten the United States or our interests.”

Are you comfortable with specifics tailoring to Islamic State? The associated forces phrase was very problematic in 2001.

Durbin: “It is still. It is still. They’re hard to pin down. If you had asked us three years ago, ‘What about the Islamic State?’ people would have opposed, [questioning] ‘What is it?’ That just shows you how quickly the circumstances and names can change. So we’ve got to give enough flexibility to have the next generation of ISIS also in our target.”

Both parties have said they want to see significant changes to what the president is suggesting but in opposite directions. How does bipartisan compromise happen and how long will it take?

Durbin: “I don’t know the answer to that because we have not really taken a task like this on in a long, long time. The last time we came close to it was the decision to invade Iraq, where there was a lot of debate, back and forth, Democrats and Republicans. It was [then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.] and it was the Republicans who were stepping up with their own views of things. I assume it starts, the first venue is the Foreign Relations Committee, but beyond that it clearly is going to be a subject for floor debate.”

Debate on war hasn’t taken place in a decade. Why has it been so delayed when we’re already in the war and months of work is expected?

Durbin: “It is not easy but it’s important. And I hope all members of both political parties will accept their responsibility. This is one of those things where we know lives are at stake – American lives as well as the survival of our enemy. So we’ve got to take the time to get it right but we shouldn’t delay it in petty politics.”

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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February 6, 2015

ISIS AUMF Debate a 2016 Foreign Policy Test

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz, left, and Graham are two senators seen as potential Republican candidates for the White House in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is gearing up — belatedly — for a full-throated war debate that will serve as a proving ground for potential presidential candidates heading into 2016.

With a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group expected on Capitol Hill by the middle of the week, as lawmakers complete work before a weeklong Presidents Day recess, the debate over how much authority to give President Barack Obama will soon take center stage.

The issue will provide opportunities for jockeying among those senators seeking their party’s nomination for president, including Lindsey Graham, who recently announced his intention to explore the possibilities.

Full story

December 13, 2014

Menendez Files ISIS Force Amendment to ‘Cromnibus’ Despite No Chance of Vote

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee thinks the current Congress should stick around long enough to consider an Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State, and he’s reiterating that as the Senate wraps up its work.

Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., moved a use of force resolution through his committee Thursday, and then filed it as an amendment to one of the last trains leaving the station this year — the catchall “cromnibus” spending bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already used the procedural tools at his disposal to prevent amendments, but senators frequently file them anyway for messaging effect. Full story

December 9, 2014

Watch: John Kerry Testifies on ISIS War

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the United States’ war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Secretary of State John Kerry will testify.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

December 5, 2014

Kerry Warns Feinstein of CIA Torture Report’s Possible Impact on Hostages

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In happier times. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein Friday about the possible impact of her committee’s imminent CIA torture report on American hostages and the war on ISIS.

“He called his former colleague to discuss the broader implications of the timing of the report’s release because a lot is going on in the world, and he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing. These include our ongoing efforts against ISIL and the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “That anyone would mischaracterize this call or question reasonable, proper, private discussions raises questions about what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Feinstein, a California Democrat, said Thursday that she had reached agreement with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on remaining redaction issues and that the report for public release was being printed.
Full story

November 20, 2014

McCain, Corker Doubtful of White House’s ISIS Strategy, Intent for AUMF

McCain and Corker are skeptical of the Obama administration's messaging on an AUMF. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain and Corker are skeptical of the Obama administration’s intent for an AUMF. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Leaving Wednesday’s closed briefing on the fight against the Islamic State, the terror group also known as ISIS or ISIL, Sen. John McCain said he doubted the Obama administration really wanted to have a new Authorization for Use of Military Force at all.

“They keep talking about the AUMF. They haven’t, they haven’t sent over anything. I’ve been involved in numerous of these crises where they send over a request for the authorization for the use of military force,” the Arizona Republican said. “You can’t believe they really want it if they don’t even send over a proposal.”

Full story

September 22, 2014

Before Approving ISIS War, Menendez Wants Intelligence Briefing (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ranking member Bob Corker, left, and Menendez listen as Kerry testifies about the ISIS threat (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The senator leading a push to authorize the war against ISIS after the elections wants an intelligence briefing first, so lawmakers know the full extent of the covert operations already under way.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez aired his frustrations last week when Secretary of State John Kerry came to testify before his old committee about the administration’s plans to fight the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked about published reports of covert efforts to train Syrian rebels.

“I know it’s been written about in the public domain, that there is, quote, ‘a covert operation.’ But … I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program,” Kerry responded.

That prompted Menendez to chime in shortly afterward, saying the committee’s inability to get access to information about covert operations was an issue with both the Obama administration and the Senate itself. He questioned how the panel could properly draft a new Authorization for Use of Military Force without such details. Full story

September 18, 2014

Senate Votes to Fund Syrian Rebels Against ISIS, Avert Government Shutdown (Updated) (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Manchin said he’s concerned about arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:50 p.m. | After some last-minute drama on immigration, the Senate took care of Congress’ last must-pass piece of business before the November elections — keeping the government funded and providing authority for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the terror group known as ISIS.

Senators voted 78-22 in favor of the continuing resolution funding the government through Dec. 11, with the bill’s next stop President Barack Obama’s desk, well ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline to preventing a government shutdown.

The bill, which the president has said he will sign, provides billions the president intends to use for his war on ISIS, but does not explicitly authorize that war beyond arming “vetted” Syrian rebels. The vote did not cut cleanly along party lines, which came as no surprise. Full story

September 17, 2014

Kaine Introduces Limited ISIS War Authorization

Tim Kaine introduces war authorization against ISIS ISIL Islamic State, would repeal Iraq AUMF

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tim Kaine is introducing a limited war authorization against ISIS, even as Congress is set to jet out of town without an authorization vote before the elections.

The Virginia Democrat, who has led the push for Congress to go on record, would limit the use of ground forces in the conflict to rescue missions and to go after high-value targets. The authority against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, would expire after a year.

He also proposes to repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq, something the White House has said it supports.

“Last week, President Obama laid out a strong case for the need to degrade and destroy ISIL and invited broader Congressional support for this effort,” Kaine said in a statement. “I was heartened when Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Robert) Menendez answered this call by saying the committee would soon craft authorizing language for the U.S. military mission. It’s my hope that this proposal will help move the ball forward on what a specific and narrow authorization for limited military action against ISIL should look like.”

Kaine again knocked the Congress for ducking the authorization question for now.

“If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work – to debate and vote on an authorization – we should not be asking our servicemembers to go into harm’s way,” he said.

Here’s the full text of Kaine’s proposal: Full story

September 3, 2014

McCain: Senate Shouldn’t Leave Without Authorizing Use of Force Against ISIS (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:03 p.m. | NORFOLK, Va. — Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t leave Washington for the mid-term election break until authorizing the use of force against ISIS.

Speaking with reporters after a campaign event for GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie at a VFW hall, the Arizonan dismissed the idea that the Senate is only scheduled to be in session for two weeks in September, where advancing a continuing resolution to keep the government running will highlight the agenda.

“I believe that these two weeks should be used to continue the CR, but most importantly the issue of this whole ISIS situation has to be reviewed. We have to have hearings. I know we’re scheduling hearings in the Armed Services Committee, and we have to act, in my view, on the authorization of use of military force,” McCain said. “And we don’t have to leave after two weeks. We can stay in session. This is an international crisis. This is a direct threat to the United States of America. That’s according to the intelligence people, the secretary of Defense, etc.”

Full story

September 2, 2014

Senate Democrat Proposes Authorization to Strike ISIS in Syria

Nelson  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Nelson (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., plans to introduce legislation next week that would give President Barack Obama definitive authority to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group in Syria — as senators on both sides of the aisle ramp up calls for military action.

“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said in a release.

While Obama has ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, some policy experts have questioned whether the administration has the clear legal authority — independent of Congress — to broaden the air campaign to strike targets in Syria. Nelson’s legislation is designed to allay those doubts. Full story

August 26, 2014

McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

Full story

August 13, 2014

Rand Paul Wants Obama to Seek Approval for Extended Iraq Effort (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul has joined the calls for President Barack Obama to seek congressional approval for an extended military campaign to fight Islamic State forces in Iraq.

Full story

August 12, 2014

Tim Kaine: Obama Needs Congress to OK Iraq Air Strikes

Kaine has been outspoken about the scope of the War Powers Resolution. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Kaine says the president needs congressional authorization for air strikes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine wants President Barack Obama to seek new approval from Congress for the current bombing campaign in Iraq.

“I support providing humanitarian relief to Iraqi civilians and measures to protect American personnel, but I am concerned about the timeline and scope of our renewed military efforts in Iraq,” the Virginia Democrat said in a statement. “Since the Administration has conceded that the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force is obsolete and should be repealed, it is now up to the Administration to receive Congressional authorization for the current air campaign against IS. This is especially the case since the President has indicated that our renewed military engagement in Iraq could be a long-term project.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:44 p.m.
Democrats, Iraq

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