Iowa lawmakers react to Obama’s war request

Alex Hanson

As the United States continues its work to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS, President Obama has sent a formal request to Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Islamic terror group.

The request could lead to the first war powers vote in Congress in 13 years, even as the Obama administration says it has the power to continue airstrikes under the 2001 authorization for the Global War on Terror.

Lawmakers across the country have differing opinions on the new authorization, with some saying language is too vague, while others are concerned about another extended war. 

“Given the duration of the military involvement, the president’s decision to come to Congress is prudent,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes along with allies in the region since September.

“I have always said that the president needed to ask Congress for an AUMF regarding the use of military force against ISIS,” said U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa. “I am hopeful that his request will lead to a long-overdue and robust debate in Congress as to the most effective course of action to deal with the threats to America posed by ISIS.”

An NBC News/Marist Poll from last week showed that a majority of Americans wanted their lawmaker to support the new authorization.

A total of 54 percent of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, 60 percent, Republicans, 52 percent and independents, 51 percent, want their representative in Congress to vote in favor of the measure.

Just 32 percent want Congress to vote against a new authorization. The remainder of Americans are undecided or have no opinion.

“The Congress has a critical role to play in foreign policy,” said U.S. Rep. David Young, R-Iowa. “House and Senate committees will begin hearings and rigorous oversight on the president’s request and I look forward to a full debate. I also look forward to listening to Iowans as they share their thoughts and views.”

While some specific language may be up to interpretation, the new AUMF would allow American intervention for three years, most of which the administration wants done from the air. Although, it would also allow limited special force operations on the ground.

The new authorization would repeal the 2002 authorization for the war in Iraq, passed under President Bush.

While lawmakers seem to agree that Congress should play an important role in debating war, congressional members from Iowa seem to be questioning the AUMF being proposed.

“I’m skeptical of giving the president additional authority in this situation without a clear definition of the mission and a clear strategy for success,” Grassley said, signaling he may be a “no” vote with the current language.

Loebsack and other lawmakers have voiced concern over the possibility of ground troops if the new authorization passes.

“While it is clear that a multi-pronged approach on the part of the U.S. is needed, I continue to have reservations about the efficacy of U.S. ground troops in the region and will continue to need to see a concerted military effort by America’s allies from the area and beyond,” Loebsack said. 

“Finally, under no circumstances should an AUMF allow for an open-ended commitment of American ground forces,” Loebsack added.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is the first female veteran to serve in Congress and is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will hold hearings about the AUMF.

“This is a very important decision and is worthy of thoughtful, deliberate consideration and debate,” Ernst said. “Our mission is clear. We need a serious bipartisan solution to destroy ISIS and those radicalized by them.”

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Ernst will be able to question administration officials in hearings.

Even with differences in opinion, Congress can expect a lengthy debate in the coming weeks and months about the new authorization.

“I look forward to continuing to discuss the president’s proposal and the most effective and efficient path forward with my colleagues and military leaders in the time ahead,” Ernst said.