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Obama Not Asking Congress’ Permission on Iraq (Updated)
Posted at 4:51 p.m. on June 18
Updated 11:18 p.m. | President Barack Obama is still considering what to do about Iraq, but he told the top congressional leaders Wednesday that he doesn’t think he needs Congress’ permission to act.
“We had a good discussion,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arriving back at the Capitol after the meeting. “The president basically just briefed us on the situation in Iraq and indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for the steps that he might take and indicated he would keep us posted.”
Obama met for about an hour in the Oval Office with McConnell, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Pelosi told reporters that she agreed that the president has all of the authorities that he needs in the authorizations to use military force passed by Congress previously.
“All of the authorities are there. That doesn’t mean I want all of them to be used, especially boots on the ground,” she said. “But I definitely think the president has all of the authority he needs by dint of legislation that was passed in 2001 and 2003.”
She appeared to be referring to the authorizations to use military force passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq. Neither of those authorizations have expired, although the official White House position is that the Iraq authorization should be repealed.
Pelosi said the president didn’t lay out what actions he intended to take but instead laid out his thinking on what was happening in Iraq.
Reid also called the meeting “a good meeting.”
“Everybody seemed satisfied,” Reid said. “The president is going to keep us as informed as informed as he can as the process moves forward.”
Reid later issued a formal statement that had a qualitatively different tone than McConnell’s.
“We had an informative and productive meeting discussing the current situation in Iraq and several other topics,” Reid said. “On Iraq, the President said he is not currently considering actions that would require Congressional approval but was very clear that he would consult with Congress if that changed.”
A senior Democratic aide briefed on the meeting disputed McConnell’s characterization of Obama’s remarks. “Whether intentionally or not, Senator McConnell’s comments mischaracterize the tone and the substance of the meeting. The President was very clear that he would keep Congress in the loop.”
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tweeted a link to this story saying, “The President is wrong and I will oppose him. He needs to come to Congress. More on this tomorrow…”
The White House issued a readout of the meeting saying the president talked about a possible increase in security assistance to Iraq, but did not mention strikes.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney deflected a question about congressional authorization, saying, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, if we come to it.”
Carney repeatedly said, however, that the president wants to avoid Iraq becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Obama’s own party has been wary of getting entangled in Iraq again, although Obama has ruled out sending ground forces into combat.
Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.