The Obama Administration is set to brief Members of Congress on President Barack Obama’s proposed response to the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, or ISIS or ISIL), which murdered two American journalists in late August and early September. The four top congressional leaders, Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were slated to meet with the President at the White House on Tuesday. A number of top Senate staffers will also be briefed on Tuesday. Senators will have a briefing on Wednesday and their counterparts in the House will have one on Thursday.
Following the briefings, it should be clearer how Congress would be required to act, if at all. According to multiple news reports, the party leaders in both Chambers would prefer to avoid a vote on the matter. “Reid and Boehner are in the same position here”, a top Democratic Senate staffer told Politico. “They both don’t want to vote on this.” Although the congressional leaders would like to avoid a vote, some Members of Congress from both parties have called for the legislature to take a formal stand on the matter. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Republican Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia have introduced legislation to authorize the President to take action against IS. Other Members of Congress have said that the President’s current authority is sufficient. For instance, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “I don’t think we need to do it”.
Although a handful of Members of Congress have introduced legislation to authorize an attack on IS, it seems improbable that they will receive a vote. Aside from the leaders’ reluctance to hold a vote, the Obama Administration has said that they President has the authority he needs to undertake the actions he has pursued thus far. According to Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post, a top Senate Democratic staffer reported that the Administration “‘had not started the formal process’ involved in seeking authorization or given any indication that it planned to do so”.
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