Although some members of Congress have called for a debate on possible U.S. military action in Iraq and Syria, Congress may end up doing nothing to address the matter before adjourning to campaign at the end of the month.
Congressional leaders have little time and — more importantly — little appetite for taking up a measure authorizing military action when it returns next week from the summer recess.
“It will never happen,” Democratic political strategist Doug Schoen told the Washington Examiner. “Neither side can or wants to reach a deal or cooperate. Too fraught with political controversy and electoral minefields.”
A handful of lawmakers in recent days have called for a debate and vote on authorizing air strikes against against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists. The group, known as ISIS, has become a growing threat in the Middle East and in recent days, its members beheaded the second American journalist in two weeks.
Republicans and Democrats have for the most part been satisfied with the idea that Obama’s use of targeted military strikes in Iraq and drone surveillance in Syria were authorized under the War Powers Resolution passed in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But with an expansion of military force likely on the table, some say Obama will need Congressional approval for further action.
“Congress is going to have to debate this use of force,” Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who is not running for re-election, told the Examiner.
Wolf said he will introduce a House measure that would give President Obama explicit authority to use military force against ISIS.
Congress, Wolf said, should not wait until after November to act.
“Do you think ISIS is waiting until the election?” Wolf said in a Wednesday interview.
But House and Senate leadership have remained vague on whether they’ll take up such a measure authorizing military strikes, suggesting there will be no quick action.
In the House, GOP leaders are awaiting word from Obama about what kind of authority he is seeking and don’t plan on doing anything until then, though there may be hearings.
But Obama has provided little information to lawmakers or their top aides on on a game plan for dealing with ISIS.
“There’s all this talk of an authorization vote on Capitol Hill, but authorizing what exactly?” a GOP aide said Wednesday. “It’s pretty hard to authorize an action when even the president himself flatly states ‘we don’t have a strategy yet.’”
Lawmakers have time on their side if they wish to dodge a pre-election vote that on an issue many consider politically radioactive.
Congress returns next week but will only be in session for for a short time before adjourning. The Senate is scheduled to leave town Sept. 23, and the House will follow Oct. 2.
With weeks off for holidays and district work periods, the House and Senate will have 10 and 17 days, respectively, to fit the matter in a calendar that already includes several priority measures, including a bill to keep the government from shutting down on Sept. 30.
Congress could be swayed to act more quickly by polls signaling growing public support for taking action against ISIS, which some lawmakers say poses an imminent threat to the United States.
A recent YouGov poll found Americans support a military strike against ISIS in Syria by a margin of 63 to 16.
In an interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show this week, Boehner said, "until the President is willing to lay out a plan, the Congress has very few options ahead of it.”