WASHINGTON–Reactions varied among the Maryland congressional delegation Thursday to President Barack Obama’s request for authority to use military force against the Islamic State.
While there is support in the delegation for the use of air strikes and arming local forces to combat ISIS, there is also concern that approving the president’s requested Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) could lead to involvement of U.S. troops in a ground war in the Middle East, perhaps similar to Iraq in 2003.
“It leaves in place indefinitely the blank check authority granted to the Executive in the 2001 AUMF,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D–Kensington. “It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the Executive’s war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere.”
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, is dissatisfied with the president’s efforts and believes Congress needs to adopt a military strategy that will defeat the Islamic State.
“The President has failed to take action and combat these terrorists in the past, and consequently they have increased in size and power,” said Harris. “ISIS is a serious threat and all military options should be left on the table.”
While President Obama would have more discretion when it comes to committing troops, this new authorization of force would repeal the 2002 authorization of force for the invasion of Iraq and be limited to three years.
“As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL,” Obama said Wednesday.
President Obama believes broadening the use of military force will give him the flexibility he needs to commit troops when it is critical for national security.
“This authorization limits the use of additional ground forces to circumstances like rescue and intelligence missions, the use of special operations to take out ISIS leadership or to enable kinetic strikes,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who voted against the AUMF in 2002, says he is in full support of Obama so long as unnecessary ground troops are not deployed.
“Authorizing the use of military force is not a decision I take lightly,” said Cardin. “I believe President Obama when he says that he does not intend to commit ground troops in this fight against ISIL, but Congress needs to do our part to uphold this promise to the American people.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, acknowledged that Congress must review and debate the proposal swiftly, and said he looks forward to “a constructive debate on both sides of aisle in the days ahead as Congress reviews the President’s resolution.”