Reporters asked the question six ways to Sunday, but Speaker John Boehner wouldn’t give an inch: he won’t say whether congressional authorization will be needed for additional military actions by President Obama to address the Islamic State (ISIS), a burgeoning terrorist group that is consolidating power in Iraq and Syria.
“The first step is, what’s the plan?” Boehner said. Congressional authorization is “not a key question because we don’t know what the strategy is. Until the president outlines a strategy to deal with this serious threat, I don’t know what’s going to be in there,” he added.
Pressed repeatedly by reporters on the question, Boehner stuck to the same script.
Boehner’s reticence came even as he used his most forceful rhetoric to date on confronting ISIS, saying Obama should propose a strategy to “destroy” the group and suggesting U.S. military action could take place not just in Syria but in many other locations.
Boehner referenced a Rand Corporation study about the growing threat of terrorist fighters “around the world” and said the U.S. should “be going after the terrorist threat wherever it is.”
Several House GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, said they do want Obama to seek congressional authorization for additional military action against ISIS.
“I absolutely do” think congressional authorization is required, said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), “and I think that’s the consensus of most of the people I talk to in the House.”
“I’d prefer that he come to Congress,” said Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), a close ally of Boehner, said he thinks a congressional authorization bill is a good idea, even if it might not be required under the law.
“I think it’s good for the American people to be solid behind this. I think the president has the authority to do it if he wants to, but I think if I were advising him, I think having broad support from the congress would be a good thing, and broad support from the American people,” Tiberi said.
“Right now he has a great deal of latitude under the the existing AUMF. But I think Congress has a responsibility to make its will and parameters and emphasis known,” added Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) struck the same note as Boehner. “We don’t know what the president’s proposal is yet. After we hear what he’s proposing, we’ll see whether he has the authority,” he said.
Caroline May contributed to this report.