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President Barack Obama on Wednesday formally asked lawmakers for a three-year authorization for the use of force against ISIS.
The broad outline sent to Capitol Hill prohibits "enduring offensive ground forces" and limits engagement to three years. The White House hopes that the limitations will assuage the concerns of skeptics on both sides of the aisle who are wary of another conflict in the Middle East, while offering broad enough language to facilitate the demise of the terror organization.
In a letter accompanying the document, Obama emphasized that the draft proposal "would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan."
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"Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations," he wrote. "The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership."
Congress has not approved such authorization for the use of force since 2002, when George W. Bush pushed for strikes in Iraq.
The president is expected to address the war powers authorization Wednesday afternoon. And aide to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says that hearings on the matter will begin after next week's Presidents Day recess.
The request already has some skeptics on both sides of the aisle.
House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that he is "not sure that the strategy that has been outlined will accomplish the mission the president says he wants to accomplish."
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Tuesday that some Democrats are concerned that the term "enduring offensive ground operations" might be too vague.
"What does it mean, how long, how big is 'enduring'? 'Offensive,' what's 'offensive' when it comes to the Department of Defense? And 'ground operations,' I guess that's a little easier to describe," he told reporters after the briefing. "But we have some legitimate questions about whether we open this up with a loophole that could lead to another major war."
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who has sometimes clashed with the president on war powers issues, said in a statement that he supports the draft measure's repeal of the 2002 authorization and the three-year sunset. "But," he added, "I am concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language and will seek to clarify it."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that the draft language is designed to allow the president authority to quickly address "contingencies" on the ground while preventing a large-scale ground troop deployment.
- Andrea Mitchell, Carrie Dann and Frank Thorp