Prominent leaders in both parties expressed skepticism Wednesday after the White House formally requested congressional authorization for the use of military force against ISIS.
Many Democrats, citing past lengthy military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, worry that the language of the request could open the door to another undefined, unpredictable mission in the Middle East. And some key Republicans believe the draft authorization proposal limits military leaders’ ability to root out and destroy the terrorist organization.
“I believe that if we are going to authorize the use of military force, the president should have all the tools necessary to win the fight that we are in,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “As you've heard me say over the last number of months, I am not sure that the strategy that has been outlined will accomplish the mission the president says he wants to accomplish.”
Skepticism from high ranking Democrats stems from the White House’s language on the possibility of using ground troops to confront the threat posed by ISIS. The White House’s draft authorization plan emphasizes it does not allow for “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” yet many Democrats think that language is too vague.
“The language pertaining to ground troops which is very broad, very ambiguous, none of us really know what enduring offensive combat missions really means and I think deliberately drafted to be ambiguous,” said Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), the first member of Congress to call for an AUMF (Authorization for the Use Military Force) debate regarding ISIS, agreed, saying “I am concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the ground troop, of the ground troop language.”
Another point of contention for Democrats was that the AUMF offered by the White House today does not “sunset” the 2001 war powers authorization crafted after September 11th. Many Democrats fear that if the current AUMF dies in Congress, the White House will continue operations against ISIS using the 2001 document as their legal justification.
The standard Republican response to the AUMF has been that it would constrict the president’s ability to go after ISIS.
“The president's proposal will weaken the authority of the president to defeat ISIS by limiting, not expanding, our ability to rollback and destroy the violent Islamist extremists that threaten our nation. I will not give consent to a measure that ties the hands of our military commanders or takes options off the table,” said House Homeland Security Chairman Michel McCaul.
A rigorous debate of the proposal is expected the coming weeks and the document will get a thorough scrubbing through the relevant committees.
Aides on both sides acknowledge a pathway to passage will prove difficult as the debate is already producing unusual bedfellows. Libertarians and progressives are already allying against conservative hawks and skeptical rank and file Democrats who want to see real changes to the White House language.
One GOP aide told NBC News, “whether this goes through depends on how much power House Democrats are willing to give their president.”