Congress’s 2002 War Measure Needs Limits, Stabenow Says

A Democratic U.S. senator who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq said she wants to narrow the scope of presidential authority to battle Islamic State extremists when Congress returns in November.

“I think that the resolutions given to President George W. Bush were very broad and probably too broad,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said at a Bloomberg News event today in New York.

Stabenow, one of nine Senate Democrats still in office who opposed the 2002 resolution authorizing use of military force in Iraq, said that measure could be interpreted “so that you could take a lot of actions” in Iraq and Syria.

The Senate on Sept. 18 passed and sent to President Barack Obama legislation that authorizes the U.S. to train and equip Syrian rebels. Stabenow was among 78 senators who supported the proposal.

Obama requested the Syria aid in a Sept. 10 televised address and made personal phone calls to seek lawmakers’ support. The president contends the U.S. needs to help Syrian rebels combating the Sunni extremist group Islamic State, which has swept from Syria deep into Iraq with a campaign of terror that included the beheadings of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.

When Congress returns Nov. 12 for a post-election session, lawmakers plan a broader -- and likely far messier -- debate over the use of military force to combat Islamic State. Senators in both parties said before last week’s vote that the promise to hold that debate persuaded them to support the more narrow authority.

Senate consideration of such a measure after the election “is about limiting” existing authorizations and being “much more specific” about what action is allowed, Stabenow said. She said she “can’t imagine supporting boots on the ground” in any legislation.

Obama and White House officials, who have made ending the war in Iraq an administration priority, have repeatedly said combat troops are not part of their plan.

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