WASHINGTON — Two senior Republican and Democratic House members are urging their colleagues to pressure Speaker Rep. John Boehner to hold a floor vote on a measure authoring the war against the Islamic State.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Deputy Republican Whip Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma are asking other members to sign onto a letter to Boehner requesting a vote.
"Roughly 250 days have passed since the President ordered military action against the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)," Schiff and Cole wrote in a letter addressed to Boehner, using another name for the violent Sunni group.
"However, we are deeply concerned that eight months into Operation Inherent Resolve, the House has taken no action on an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) which would provide a clear legal justification for the actions against ISIL," they write. "While hearings have been held in the House Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, no markup has taken place."
The duo notes that a recent floor schedule put out by Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., "contains no suggestion that consideration of an AUMF on the floor is imminent."
"This dereliction of our constitutional duty causes great injury to the Congress, and threatens our role as a check on the president's power to make war," Schiff and Cole write.
The letter has yet to be sent to Boehner. They are hoping other members will add their signatures before it is.
The White House says it would welcome an AUMF tailored for the group, but also believes it has legal authorization for the conflict under the measure passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
"Whatever the legal merits of that argument, the 2001 AUMF is at best an inexact fit for the threat posed by ISIL," states the letter. The group "came into existence more than a decade after the passage of the 2001 AUMF, and it has at times come into direct conflict with al-Qaida."
The letter comes days after McCarthy and Boehner told reporters that an AUMF submitted to lawmakers by the White House essentially is dead in the House. Over in the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told reporters last week that panel likely will turn back to AUMF work now that it has passed a bill regarding on any deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
"We recognize that members, both Republicans and Democrats, have different views as to how an AUMF should be constructed," Schiff and Cole write. "However, those differences are all the more reason to allow the House to work its will through the legislative process."
Not passing a new force-authorization measure "undermines" Congress' "authority and role in matters of war and peace," they write, adding, "If we refuse to debate a resolution on the weightiest question any nation faces — whether to take military action — we cede to the executive branch a power that the framers intentionally delegated to Congress.
The letter includes the always-important ask of the speaker: "We urge you to instruct the appropriate committees to hold a markup and to set aside floor time at the earliest possible juncture for the House to debate and vote on an authorization to use military force against ISIL."