Obama's commitment to fighting ISIS threat questioned in wake of Ebola, midterms

Senator: U.S. plan against ISIS won't work
Senator: U.S. plan against ISIS won't work

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    Senator: U.S. plan against ISIS won't work

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Senator: U.S. plan against ISIS won't work 02:00

Story highlights

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham says Obama "is all in when it comes to Ebola," but not ISIS
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she is concerned Obama will reduce his commitment to fighting ISIS after midterms
  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he wouldn't "second-guess" the House on an ISIS vote
  • Administration says that despite skepticism, it is capable of dealing with any matter of problem quickly
It was a long summer for President Barack Obama, who for months has defended his decision not to send U.S. troops to fight ISIS on the ground in the Middle East.
But lawmakers contend that in the wake of a rapidly-spreading Ebola crisis and the upcoming midterm elections, the President's commitment towards fighting the extremist terrorist organization has fallen short.
Comparing the spread of Ebola to the ISIS threat against the United States, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday that he doesn't believe that the President is handling each issue with equal rigor.
"The stronger Ebola gets in Africa, the more it spreads and the more entrenched it is -- the more endangered we are," Graham told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "The same (goes) for radical Islam in the Mideast. It seems to be that the President is all in when it comes to Ebola. I want to compliment him for sending troops to help get ahead of this in Africa, but we have a series of half-measures with (ISIS)."
His Republican colleague, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, went a step further Sunday, saying that the President's foreign policy "is being trapped by his campaign rhetoric."
"I'm very fearful as we look at the current military strategy that it is surrounding the November elections and that he won't have the resolve to follow through with what needs to be done in a sustained effort to destroy ISIS, and we're about to repeat the same thing with Afghanistan," Ayotte said on Fox News Sunday.
Asked if she thought the President would pull back some of his commitment towards the issue after the midterm elections, Ayotte responded, "I'm very concerned about that ... and his resolve in this regard."
Both Ayotte and Graham have said that they do not believe that ISIS can be defeated without U.S. ground forces in Iraq, a move the President has vehemently opposed.
But should Obama decide to increase the U.S. military presence in the Middle East to fight ISIS, he'll have to first face Congress and a Republican-controlled House, whose leader says the President needs to outline a more robust foreign policy strategy for Congress to take up the debate.
"The President has to lay out a strategy. I don't see that for the American public," Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "What is the goal? What is our foreign doctrine? What is our foreign policy?"
"I see the threat before us. Looking at the chambers, we will see what people debate," he said. "I can pick and choose what goes forward but would never second-guess the House."
Even if a bill were to pass allowing the President to expand America's military presence in the Middle East, the looming threat of defense cuts under sequestration could limit the administration's response. That issue, lawmakers say, is a concern in which they are willing to reach across the aisle and compromise for.
"I want to sit down with Sens. (John) McCain, Jack Reed, (and) Diane Feinstein to replace these cuts," Graham told Crowley. "Republicans have to give on revenue, close deductions in the tax code and put the money back in the sequestration and entitlement reform."
Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island shared that sentiment.
"Sequestration has to be either eliminated or somehow postponed and that goes not just for some of the issues like the Department of Defense. That goes for every agency of the federal government," Reed said on "State of the Union." "And people like Lindsey Graham who want to work on the issue, I want to work with him on it. Those types of issues are going to have to be dealt with no matter who is in charge."
Despite the looming threat of sequestration, the public anxiety over of the Ebola crisis and the recent Secret Service failures that have come to light this past month, the administration says the American people shouldn't be worried about its ability to handle the ISIS threat and other matters of national security.
"I do understand that people have had a growing skepticism of institutions for a long time, including government," senior Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But people should know that ... where a problem arises, we deal with it. We deal with it quickly, we deal with it forcefully to make sure it doesn't happen."