In the fight against the Islamic State group, members of Congress talk tough against extremism, but many want to run for cover when it comes to voting on new war powers to fight the militants, preferring to let the president own the battle.
They might not be able to run for long.
The U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria is creeping forward, putting more pressure on Congress to vote on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It would be the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a leading force in the Senate for a new authorization, said the reluctance to vote runs deep and that many in Congress prefer to criticize President Barack Obama’s policy in Iraq and Syria without either authorizing or stopping the fight.
“There is sort of this belief that if we do not vote, we cannot be held politically accountable. We can just blame the president,” Kaine said.
“We are forcing people to be deployed far from home in a theater of war, and risking their lives and losing their lives and members of Congress are like `I’m afraid of this vote because somebody might try to hold me accountable for it.”‘
The vote in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq was politically perilous for many lawmakers — and is shadowing 2016 presidential candidates today.
“I know lawmakers who still go over to Arlington Cemetery — to the gravesites of folks killed in the Iraq War and wonder `Why did I vote for this?”‘ Kaine said.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut agreed, saying crafting a plan to fight IS isn’t easy. “It’s very convenient for Congress just to force the president to do it and blame him if it fails,” Murphy said. “If we pass an AUMF, then we own the strategy.”
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