POLITICS

Democratic Rep: Congress Shouldn't Give Obama A 'Blank Check' On War

02/15/2015 12:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 15, 2015

Congress should act to pass an authorization to use military force against the Islamic State, but should also be wary of granting the president a "blank check," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, argued Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Last week, six months after the start of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State, Obama sent a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force to Congress that authorizes three years of military action against the militant group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Schiff said that congressional inaction at this point would reflect poorly on U.S. lawmakers.

If Congress fails to pass a resolution, it would signal "that Congress can't get its act together, for one thing," said Schiff. "And it also says to future presidents that Congress is basically an historical anachronism in terms of its power to declare war, that we're no longer relevant in that debate. We should have never taken six months to take this up."

In January, Schiff introduced legislation to end a wide-ranging 2001 AUMF, still in effect, that the White House has used as justification for the combat already underway.

"I think it's very important that we find a way to get to yes on an authorization," said Schiff. "But I also think it's very important that we not write another blank check. We did that 14 years ago with the 2001 authorization, and that authorization continues in force on the president's proposal."

"That's very worrying to a lot of Democrats," he continued, "because it means that when the new one expires, the next president can simply rely on this old authorization and say, 'That gives me the authority to go after whoever I want, wherever I want, in any way I want.'"

Denis McDonough, Obama's chief of staff, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that Congress shouldn't "take a pass" on the issue. He cited Obama's 2013 request to launch airstrikes against Syria, which was never approved.

But while Schiff was wary of the proposal's breadth, many Republicans say the AUMF doesn't go far enough.

"I think it ties the president's hands," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who also appeared on "This Week."

"What his draft resolution would do is say we need to destroy ISIS to a point, unless it takes enduring offensive operations -- whatever that means -- then in which case we just don't have the authority to do it," Kinzinger continued. "The job of Congress, and Adam [Schiff] said it, is to declare war, it's not to be commander in chief. And this authorization as the president put out would be, in essence, Congress being commander in chief and making strategic decisions."

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