Senior GOP senator presses for new military authority to defeat Islamic militants

  • Article by: DONNA CASSATA , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 5, 2014 - 3:20 PM

WASHINGTON — The senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is pushing legislation authorizing the president to use military force against Islamic state militants in Iraq, Syria and wherever else they threaten U.S. interests.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is circulating a draft of a resolution granting the president the authority to "use all necessary and appropriate force in order to defend the national security of the United States against the threat posed by the organization called the Islamic State or 'IS,' formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as any successor organization."

The measure, which has no end date, would allow President Barack Obama to deploy ground forces as well as continue with airstrikes against the merciless militants who have seized swaths of Iraq, threaten the government and killed two American journalists inside Syria.

Inhofe is seeking bipartisan support for his measure as Congress returns to Washington next week from its five-week break. The resolution also forces the president to submit a strategy to Congress within 60 days for how to defeat the Islamic State group. President Barack Obama has vowed to destroy and degrade the militants but conceded last week that the administration has no strategy.

The Senate has a shortened session in September, and it is unclear whether lawmakers will act on any legislation responding to the militant threat. Some Republicans and Democrats contend that the president already has authority to act based on the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

In a letter to Obama on Friday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the president has the authority to use military force against the militants.

"Just as the U.S. has conducted operations against terrorists elsewhere, there is no legal reason preventing you from targeting ISIL in Syria," Rubio wrote. He pressed Obama for a strategy to defeat the militants.

Other Republicans say they are reluctant to give the president any blanket military authority absent a detailed strategy.

Pending in the Senate is the sweeping defense policy bill, and Inhofe's resolution could be part of that debate, although the Senate is not expected to act on the defense bill until a postelection, lame-duck session in November.

Other lawmakers also have said they will push for resolutions on military force. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he will propose a resolution next week to require a comprehensive plan from Obama on how to defeat the Islamic State group. His measure also would revoke the 2002 authority to use military force in Iraq and grant a new, short-term authorization for military force.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is proposing a measure that would authorize military air strikes against militant targets in Syria.

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