Congressional leaders, who were briefed at the
Despite rising public support for a muscular military posture, Americans remain weary after more than a decade of war — and although support for military action may prove unpopular, so might opposition.
Faced with the very real possibility that a growing coalition of antiwar Democrats and isolationist Republicans would defeat a resolution authorizing military force, most in Congress appear content to let the White House take the lead. Congress' failure to agree also could undermine the
Despite repeated complaints from Republicans that Obama too often has exceeded his presidential powers, Rep.
"I think it's better if Congress would give approval, but I think it's better to do it after the fact," said King, who supports intervention in Iraq and Syria, but worries a debate in Congress would "get bogged down."
The situation is reminiscent of a year ago, when Obama was weighing military action against the government of Syrian President
Stunning many allies at home and abroad, Obama abruptly reversed course and gave lawmakers what they were demanding, a chance to vote. The War Powers Resolution was enacted to provide a check on the executive branch in the aftermath of expanded military incursions during the
Now, facing a similar opportunity to determine whether the U.S. should engage in a potentially dangerous and costly offense against militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, Congress is once again reluctant to put a vote behind its rhetoric.
“The duck-and-blame game should end,” said
In many ways, the lack of congressional action has become a decision in itself. No vote has been scheduled — a tacit acceptance of the administration's strategy.
“I'm shocked to see Congress punt on its war powers,” said Charles A. Stevenson, professor at
"They're all scared," Stevenson said. "They're evading their responsibility: The Democrats don't really want to vote for a war because a lot of them were elected voting against war, and the Republicans because they probably can't agree on what kind of war to approve."
At the White House meeting Tuesday, Obama told top congressional leaders that "he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night," according to a statement from the White House. At the same time, Obama said he welcomed support from Congress as a way to demonstrate American unity to the rest of the world. "He reiterated his belief that the nation is stronger and our efforts more effective when the president and Congress work together."
Americans appear increasingly open to the idea: 61% believe taking action is in the national interest, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday.
Obama and previous presidents have bypassed the legislative branch to engage the
The administration declined to seek congressional approval for U.S. participation in a
Fed up with the what many liberal and libertarian lawmakers view as mission creep in the latest campaign against Islamic State, a robust House majority voted this summer for a resolution limiting the president's future military actions. Some lawmakers eager to vote on the latest action have introduced bills that are unlikely to get votes.
“The idea that we don't want to talk about this because it's politically inconvenient I think is inexcusable,” said Rep.
Few current lawmakers were in Congress for the vote in 2002 that authorized the war in Iraq, a wrenching exercise that hobbled some reelection campaigns when antiwar attitudes grew in subsequent years.
Hoping to gird Republicans for the November election, when the party is favored to expand its majority in the House and could win control of the
But even the Cheney visit failed to persuade libertarian-leaning Republicans to support the emerging military strategy, reflective of the split within the party.
“We had a golden opportunity to do the right thing, that also would have been the politically expedient thing, to vote to not go to war in Syria,” said
With or without action from Congress, some lawmakers are confronting the issue directly.
The No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep.
"All of them are going to have to answer questions in their districts," he said. "They're in campaigns and they're going to state their opinions."