February 12, 2015 / 7:31 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Battle lines emerge in US Congress over Obama Islamic State war plan

(Adds background, Pelosi comments)

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday Republicans want a "strong, robust" authorization for military action against Islamic State, underscoring sharp differences with Democrats over President Barack Obama's plans for the campaign.

A day after Obama sent his proposed authorization to Congress, Boehner told a news conference he and his fellow Republicans wanted to give U.S. military commanders enough flexibility to defeat the militant group wherever it exists.

"I want to give our military commanders the flexibility and the authority they need to defeat the enemy," Boehner said. "If we're going to win this fight, we need a strong robust strategy and a strong, robust authority."

While Republicans said Obama included too many restrictions in the plan, such as a pledge there would be no "enduring" involvement by U.S. ground troops, the president's fellow Democrats worry the plan is too broad.

Many Democrats - particularly the most liberal members of the House - said they wanted a blanket prohibition on U.S. ground combat forces. Some also called for geographic restrictions on combat, which are not in Obama's draft proposal.

Both the Senate and House must approve the war authorization for it to take effect. Leaders of both chambers promise to hold hearings and briefings in the coming weeks as lawmakers debate and amend the proposal.

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, acknowledged that it will be difficult for Obama's measure to pass. "It is going to be hard" for Republicans and Democrats to reach consensus, she told a weekly news conference.

Republicans control a majority of seats in both the House and Senate, but there are too many objections from members of both parties for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to pass without bipartisan backing.

Obama has also called for both parties to get behind the plan, in order to show the world - and Islamic State militants - a united front.

Boehner was asked if he thought a plan could pass. He did not give an answer, saying only, "Let's take it one day at a time."

Reporting By David Lawder and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Andrew Hay

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