The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday narrowly approved the first formal authorization for the
By a party-line 10-8 vote, the Democratic-led panel authorized U.S. airstrikes and other military operations against the Sunni extremists and associated groups for up to three years.
The panel also barred the use of U.S. combat troops, except in specific circumstances.
The vote on a proposal by the committee chairman, Sen.
Since the U.S. involvement began in August, U.S. aircraft have launched more than 1,000 strikes against the militants. President Obama has authorized sending about 3,100 military advisors to assist Iraqi security forces.
Democrats on the committee and Sen.
Although lawmakers agreed on the need to convey a unified message to America's allies and adversaries alike, the deliberations underscored divisions between the parties.
At least on this issue, the Obama administration is closer in the debate to Republican lawmakers, most of whom contend that
Setting limits on ground forces in the authorization "is not the way to go," Sen.
The Senate probably won't approve the legislation until next year, after
Although Democrats were eager to put themselves on record as opposing another open-ended war, the limits they set were flexible. Some critics contended that they were too elastic, and that many military actions could be justified under the approved language.
The legislation says ground troops could be used to collect intelligence, support airstrikes, carry out planning or provide "other forms of advice and assistance to forces fighting [Islamic State] in Iraq or Syria."
The legislation also says the next administration could seek an extension of the three-year time limit.
Menendez said the goal was not to tie the hands of Obama and his successor, but to get Congress into the decision-making on the war. The goal of the authorization is to "create checks and balances on the commander in chief as is envisioned by the founders," he said.
With the bill, the committee is "rushing to make something legal, as if that makes us relevant," he said.
Administration officials, including Secretary of State