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The Hill: Lawmakers urge Ryan to allow ISIS war vote

November 6, 2015
News Stories

The Hill - Cristina Marcos

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging newly minted Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to schedule a vote on authorizing U.S. troops to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

Thirty-five House members — including liberals, GOP leadership allies and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus — banded together in a Friday letter to Ryan asking for a vote.

The letter comes a week after President Obama announced plans to send up to 50 special operations troops to Syria to advise opposition militants in the region. It will mark the first time American troops are stationed in Syria since the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS began last year.

"We do not share the same policy prescriptions for U.S. military engagement in the region, but we do share the belief that it is past time for the Congress to fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and vote on an AUMF that clearly delineates the authority and limits, if any, on U.S. military engagement in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region," the lawmakers wrote.

Congress in September 2014 approved legislation authorizing a $500 million program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels. Lawmakers pledged they would take up a formal authorization for use of military force (AUMF) upon returning to Washington after the midterm elections. But the support never coalesced on Capitol Hill to pass a measure, even after the Obama administration sent a draft proposal in February.

Most recently, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) forced a vote in June on a resolution that would have required the president to remove troops within six months. But the House resoundingly defeated it 139-288, effectively voting to keep troops fighting ISIS despite the absence of an AUMF.

The Obama administration has been using the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as its legal basis for the military campaign against ISIS. 

"Consistent with your pledge to return to regular order, we urge you to direct the committees of jurisdiction to draft and report out an AUMF as soon as possible," the lawmakers implored Ryan. "We do not believe in the illusion of a consensus authorization, something that only happens rarely."

A Ryan spokeswoman indicated that the Obama administration should offer lawmakers more detailed information before the House moves forward on any legislative action.

"Members need to be briefed on the specifics of the new actions taken by the administration before making any further decisions," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

The 35 lawmakers on the letter were McGovern and Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), John Culberson (R-Texas), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).

Online: The Hill