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Posted at 5:56 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2014
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.”
“We should stay in session until we work this issue out, working with the president and Congress,” McCain said, with a new authorization for fighting against the terrorist group known as ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., had said Tuesday he planned to introduce a use of force measure when the Senate returns.
“We have got to not only stop ISIS, we have to defeat them,” McCain said. “We are facing the largest, most powerful, most wealthy terrorist organization in history.”
McCain said Obama needed to be prepared to launch attacks on Syrian territory, repeating calls for arming the free Syrian Army and the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.
“Most of all, the president has to lead. He is not leading, and you can’t expect him to build a coalition if the only objective he has is humanitarian purposes or protecting American military. This is one of the real shameful chapters in America history,” McCain said.
McCain was touted by Gillespie and his supporters at the VFW post as the next Armed Services chairman (a gavel he would claim in a GOP-led Senate).
Both McCain and Gillespie said Congress, in conjunction with the administration, should be moving to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State.
“The president, even today, seemed to go back and forth on whether or not the objective was to destroy ISIS or to make them a manageable problem,” Gillespie told reporters. “I think we need to get some clarity from our commander-in-chief as to what is the objective and how do we achieve that objective, and as the senator said, will you … play a leadership role in rallying the world.”
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri sounded a similar tone in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
“As we were reminded this week, ISIS is clearly prepared to perpetrate contemptible boundaries that are unacceptable to Americans — and hopefully all civilized worlds. Terrorists who behead Americans are not ‘manageable.’ They must be stopped, and we need President Obama to communicate a clear strategy and goals on how he plans to eliminate this threat,” Blunt said.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also put out a statement saying, “I urge the Administration to come to Congress with a clear strategy and political and military options for eliminating the ISIL threat. The United States should not take any military options off the table, because stopping ISIL is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. and our European allies.”
McCain is among a growing number of voices saying that the existing use of force authority is not sufficient for a protracted campaign.
“It would be very important that [Obama] work with Congress for an authorization of the use of military force. The one that we enacted after 9/11 is no longer, in many ways applicable,” McCain said.