When It Comes to War on ISIS, Congress Would Rather Not Weigh In At All

U.S. Congress has repeatedly passed the buck on debating war on ISIS. (Photo: U.S. House of Representatives/flickr/public domain)

When It Comes to War on ISIS, Congress Would Rather Not Weigh In At All

As House rejects effort to force vote on war authorization, debate over war itself conspicuously absent

U.S. lawmakers sent the message on Thursday that they do not want to touch the war on ISIS, let alone engage in real debate.

In a 196-231 vote, the House defeated an amendment attached to the defense spending bill that would have forced lawmakers to vote on authorization of the war on ISIS, which has already been waged for ten months.

Introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the legislation would have required Congress to hold a vote on a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) by the end of March 2016 by tying Pentagon funding to lawmakers' explicit approval.

"Ten months into an undeclared war against ISIS, Congress yet again dodged its responsibility to authorize the use of force," declared Schiff during Wednesday's debate on the House floor. "If we are going to ask service members to risk their lives, we ought to have the courage ourselves to take a vote on this war."

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However, Schiff made it clear that he backs the war the war on ISIS: "If this is worth fighting ISIS, and I believe it is, it's worth having Congress do its job."

In a climate where even pro-war AUMF proposals can't get a vote, real debate over the war itself is almost completely absent.

The two AUMF requests submitted so far--by President Barack Obama in mid-February and bipartisan senators this week--both call for open-ended and geographically-limitless war against a broadly-defined enemy.

As Congress continues to pass the buck on those proposals, the war on ISIS is escalating, seemingly unaffected by lawmakers' actions--or lack thereof.

The White House revealed this week it is planning to deploy up to 450 more troops to Iraq, adding to the roughly 3,000 already there, and establish a military base in eastern Anbar Province. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that the base could serve as a model for "lily pad" hubs across Iraq.

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