President, Congressional Leaders Discuss ISIS Strategy
President Barack Obama met with the four top congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss his plan for responding to the threat posed by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, or ISIL or ISIS). Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were in attendance but provided few details of what transpired. According to Politico, “The leaders declined to address the sensitive meeting afterward; there were no congressional aides in the meeting.” A readout from the White House said, “The President told the Leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night.” Additionally, the White House noted, “The President told the Leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL.”
With the exception of Minority Leader McConnell, the congressional leaders have refrained from saying a vote is necessary. According to National Journal, Senator McConnell said, “The president should be seeking congressional approval, period, for whatever he decides to do, because that’s the way you hear from those of us who represent the rest of the country”. Speaker Boehner’s office issued a readout of the meeting, but it did not address what actions he thought necessary on the part of Congress. Rather, it said he “expressed support for certain options that have been proposed by the President, such as increasing the effectiveness of the Iraqi Security Forces and training and equipping the Syrian opposition.” Likewise, he also “stated he would support the President if he chose to deploy the military to help train and play an advisory role for the Iraqi Security Forces and assist with lethal targeting of ISIL leadership.”
President Obama will lay out his plan for attacking IS in a nationally televised speech on Wednesday. In a press conference two weeks ago, he said the Administration did not have a strategy to deal with the terrorist group, a comment that many on the right have criticized. A number of Republican candidates have used the comment, or the country’s conflict with IS more generally, as an opportunity to assail the President on the campaign trail. The gaffe has also been recognized on the left. For instance, the Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “That was very poorly handled. I think he knows it. I think the speech this week is to clarify that we do have a strategy and that we have allies in the effort.”
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