Washington – Connecticut lawmakers were skeptical and cautious Wednesday in their response to President Obama’s request for authorization to expand the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic state, especially when it came to the president’s request to allow troops to operate on the ground for limited periods.
“This authorization needs to make it crystal clear that U.S. combat troops cannot be sent back into the Middle East as part of this conflict, and I worry that the vague limitations on ground troops in today’s draft may turn out to be no limitations at all,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, was equally critical.
“I am reviewing the [request] the president sent to Congress this morning and will reserve judgment on how I will vote until we know what Congress will be voting on,” DeLauro said. “However I will not support any legislation that commits U.S. combat troops. I will be paying close attention to how our objectives in the region are defined and how we can ensure we are not dragged into an open-ended conflict.”
When the Obama administration began its campaign against ISIS last year, most Connecticut lawmakers joined other Democrats in insisting Obama ask for authorization from Congress for the new military action.
“Since last summer, I urged President Obama to seek and receive explicit authorization from Congress to combat ISIS,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District. ”Congress has a constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on a new, limited Authorization for the Use of Military Force.”
Esty, however did not weigh in on the merits of the president’s request, saying she looked forward to “thoroughly reviewing the president’s draft authorization and discussing it with folks here at home in northwest and central Connecticut.”
Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said he will also survey his constituents on the issue.
“I plan to hold forums in my district on the President’s proposal in order to hear directly from the people I represent,” Larson said. “While I understand how complex this situation is, I know the ramifications of committing our Armed Forces into conflict and remain skeptical of any long-term U.S. engagement — particularly given the fact that we have already spent over $25 billion with limited success to train over 930,000 Iraqi soldiers.”
The administration says that it launched its campaign against ISIS under an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, approved by Congress in 2001 and 2002 after the 9/11 attacks.
But Obama acceded to Congress’ request for a new authorization Wednesday, submitting a draft bill that would authorize the war on ISIS for three years. The request came the day after confirmation of the death of Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who had been held hostage by ISIS.
The AUMF draft does not include geographic limits on the conflict and would allow troops to operate on the ground for limited periods of time almost anywhere in the world.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, said he was glad Obama asked Congress for new war powers.
“I disagreed with the president that he already had authority to conduct war without congressional authorization,” Himes said.
He also said he hoped Congress would further restrict the use of use of ground troops and limit the AUMF in other ways.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the president’s draft bill “is an improvement over the open-ended, vague authorizations passed in 2001 and 2002 that have been governing our involvement in this conflict to date.”
“The inclusion of a clear time limit, restrictions on the use of ground forces, and repeal of the outdated 2002 resolution are all clear improvements over the status quo,” Courtney said.
But he also said, “Congress must learn from the experience of the last decade and take an active role in ensuring that this authorization is properly limited and targeted towards the mission at hand.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said, “There remain grave issues still to be resolved – such as clarifying restrictions against use of American combat ground troops, establishing the scope and scale of U.S. military operations, and sun-setting obsolete authorities.”
Republicans and Democrats said they would review the president’s request and make what they deemed necessary changes. But there was a partisan split in their assessment of the president’s plan, with most Democrats saying it should be narrowly tailored and many Republicans saying Obama did not seek enough latitude to successfully prosecute the war.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the president’s draft “serious and thoughtful,” and urged Congress to “act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly tailored to the war against ISIS.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said placing limits on the president’s power is unconstitutional because the Constitution gives the president the power to run the country’s armed conflicts.