CAPITOL HILL—U.S. lawmakers are speaking out on the eve of President Barack Obama’s address outlining U.S. plans to combat radical Islamic State fighters. Both parties say action is warranted, but some disagree on whether Congress must authorize the use of force.
For months, Republican lawmakers have slammed the Obama administration’s response to chaos and fanatical militancy in the Middle East as timid and tardy. Now, with the president set to lay out his strategy for taking on the Islamic State, some Republicans are, for the moment, moderating criticism while continuing to urge bold action.
“The threat from ISIL is real, and it is growing,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”
That message is echoed by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
“They [Islamic State] have threatened to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including here in the United States,” she said. “We must hold ISIS accountable for their despicable acts.”
Some lawmakers of both parties say Obama need not secure congressional authorization to strike against Islamic State fighters who control territory in Syria and Iraq. Republican Senator Ted Cruz is not one of them. Cruz is outspoken in his support of military action.
“ISIS is a study in oppression and brutality,” he said. “The response must be, principally, military.”
But Cruz, who accuses Obama of weakness in combating global terrorism, said any action taken against the Islamic State group must be approved by Congress.
“The president is reportedly considering an action that could last as long as three years,” he said. “If this is, indeed, the case, then it is incumbent on him to come to Congress and lay out his strategies.”
In the House of Representatives, Republican Speaker John Boehner was repeatedly asked if congressional authorization is required and repeatedly gave a cryptic response.
“What I am hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS, and destroys them,” he said.
Overall, Democrats are sensitive to criticism the president has been slow to act. Florida Senator Bill Nelson took to the floor to note that Obama has already ordered air strikes in Iraq that have halted Islamic State advances on key cities and infrastructure targets. Lawmakers of both parties say they will watch the president’s speech Wednesday with great interest.