Two House lawmakers on Thursday introduced a measure to authorize military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), making it the first bipartisan and bicameral measure to do so.
Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the legislation, a companion bill to a measure in the Senate offered by Sens. Tim KaineTim KaineDemocrats thought they could produce a political earthquake in Kansas Poll: Dems hold double-digit leads in Virginia governor race Sen. King: Trump needs Congress to sign off on new military action MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
The Obama administration currently maintains it has the authority to prosecute the war using the 2001 AUMF intended against al Qaeda, but it has argued a new AUMF in the war against ISIS would signal Congress's support for the war and the troops fighting it.
A RAND Corporation report released this week faulted the administration for "legal gymnastics" in using the 2001 AUMF to justify the new war against ISIS and recommended Congress pass a new measure.
Several other lawmakers, including presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), have introduced measures of their own, but this new effort is the only one that is both bipartisan and bicameral.
The White House also sent over an AUMF proposal last year, but it hit a brick wall after Republicans said it was too restrictive and Democrats said it was not restrictive enough.
Members on both sides of the aisle have been reluctant to endorse a new AUMF out of concern for how the war may end or how it may be prosecuted.
The lawmakers on Thursday said it was Congress's responsibility to authorize war and that it is long overdue.
"However one may define it, we are in a war right now," said Rigell, who noted that with a new House Speaker, lawmakers may be more amenable to tackling difficult issues in a bipartisan manner.
"We must not fear ISIS nor should we fear the debate about how to defeat ISIS," he said.
"Congress has been absent," added Welch. "It's time that Congress did its job."
Flake agreed that some colleagues "just don't want to get on the record here," but he said they would do their best to bring it to a vote.
"It will be a tough vote, and people are afraid of tough vote," Kaine said.
However, he added, one soldier has been killed in combat in the war, 10 U.S. troops have been killed in non-combat instances, five service members have been wounded and troops would be serving over Christmas.
"How do you think their families feel [when we say] it would be 'hard' for Congress to have a vote again?" he said.
"The scale of what's tough is so monumentally what's out of balance," he said. "It's a little embarrassing."