For Once Obama Should Have More Power, House Republicans Say

President Barack Obama should be asking for more power to wage war against Islamic State extremists, some Republicans on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs committee said.

“The president has been clear he believes they have full legal authority to prosecute” Islamic State, Representative Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican, said during a panel hearing Thursday. “I’ve never heard of a president asking Congress, saying ‘please tie my hands.’”

Obama’s formal request to Congress Wednesday would authorize the use of U.S. military force against Islamic State for three years and allow deployment of ground troops short of “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

While Republicans have repeatedly accused Obama of executive overreach in areas such as immigration, several lawmakers at the hearing questioned why he wasn’t seeking broader authority this time.

They suggested that limits contained in the proposal might hamstring the military’s ability to fight extremists or even be an attempt to blame Congress if the campaign fails.

Yet Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, was one of several members of his party on the panel who expressed the opposite view. Sherman, who has said on Twitter that he opposes Obama’s authorization, said he wants more limits on the use of ground troops.

“Ground troops, if necessary to take territory, will be necessary to hold territory” and will result in prolonging the fight, Sherman said during the hearing.

Bombing Campaign

The U.S. began a bombing campaign against Islamic State on Aug. 8. Obama has cited a 2001 authorization by Congress to fight al-Qaeda as the legal underpinnings for the campaign against Islamic State, though he said late last year he would seek a new authorization from lawmakers.

Obama said he’s limiting the scope of the new request to avoid involving the U.S. in another protracted fight abroad.

“The United States should not be dragged into another prolonged ground war” in the Middle East, Obama said Wednesday at the White House. “I do not believe American interests are served by endless war.”

Some Democrats also say the authorization’s geographic scope should be limited, while Republicans are calling to give Obama a wide berth.

Salmon compared Obama’s request to a hypothetical President “Franklin Delano Roosevelt standing up and saying, ‘here are the five things we don’t do to the Japanese.’”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Ground Troops

Representative Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, said he had similar concerns with the limits on the use of ground troops and the timing in Obama’s proposal.

“The executive should have all the authority that he needs to take the action that is necessary to win,” Emmer said during the hearing. “Why wouldn’t Congress authorize the president to take whatever action with whatever resources are available?”

Some Republican committee members questioned Obama’s motives, suggesting he was looking for a scapegoat in case the fight against Islamic State fails.

“I’m trying to figure out what is motivating this,” said Representative Ron DeSantis, a Florida Republican. He suggested that Obama wants approval from Congress “so he can point the finger at us” if the campaign is unsuccessful.

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