House Speaker John Boehner said the debate over a new war resolution was stalled in Congress and it would be “virtually impossible” to pass the authorization President Barack Obama sent in February to fight the terror group ISIS.
“Until the President gets serious about fighting the fight, until he has a strategy that makes sense, there’s no reason for us to give him less authority than what he has today. Which is what he’s asking for,” Boehner told a small group of reporters on Tuesday, according to reports by The Washington Post and Associated Press.
The President sent a proposal in February to Congress that limited the President’s authority to wage a military campaign against ISIS to three years. The text of the resolution explicitly did not authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” But that line led to a debate that prevented much progress on the issue. Many Republicans thought the proposal limited the President’s actions, and war weary Democrats believed it could open the door to U.S. combat troops on the ground.
Boehner’s remarks come a day after the No. 2 House Republican leader, Rep Kevin McCarthy of California, told reporters there were not enough votes in the House to pass Obama’s proposal.
But McCarthy did suggest that committees were still debating the issue and there would be a vote at some point on a so-called “authorization for use of military force” or “AUMF”, saying “I think it’s important that Congress weighs in.”
In the months after the Obama administration approved airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, Boehner repeatedly argued Congress needed to formally approve the military mission, but he insisted it was up to the White House draft the language.
House and Senate committees held hearings on the administration’s proposed resolution. But despite their criticisms on the language developed by the administration, GOP lawmakers have not offered any alternative language, and instead continue to say Obama needed to get more involved.
The White House has maintained that it did not need a new war resolution to launch airstrikes against ISIS that began roughly eight months ago, saying a 2001 war authority Congress approved to fight al Qaeda covered this latest military operation.
But Obama said in his State of the Union address earlier this year it was important for Congress to formally pass a new war resolution to demonstrate to allies around the world the country was united on the effort to defeat ISIS.
The speaker, who just returned from a trip to several countries in the Mideast, including Iraq and Israel, also said that U.S. troops fighting in the region now should allowed to engage more directly in the fight.
Boehner criticized the Obama administration for putting “”artificial constraints” on military leaders overseeing the 4,500 U.S. forces in the region, according to The New York Times. These troops are tasked with “training and equipping” allies who can directly fight ISIS forces.
The speaker didn’t appear to urge the President to send additional U.S. combat forces, but he has previously said at some point American troops may be needed inside Syria to beat back ISIS advances.