Allahpundit despairs at how many members of Congress are eager to sidestep a vote on a war with ISIS. If they don’t exert some control over this process now, he warns, they’re not any more likely to do so if and when our military commitment starts to snowball:
What’s important is keeping Congress as politically comfortable as possible, and the less power they retain, the easier that becomes. Some members justify their deference to O in terms of the assets he plans to use: Bernie Sanders told the NYT he’s okay with letting Obama bomb who he wants as long as ground troops aren’t sent in, the key distinction being … I don’t know. I guess the president has inherent authority to put airmen’s lives at risk but not infantry’s? Does that make any sense? … They’re not going to cut the money off once men are in harm’s way. And they’re certainly not going to vote on an AUMF later, as Sanders’s airstrikes-yes-infantry-no formulation seems to imagine. Once they’ve allowed Obama to wage war unilaterally from the air, it’s the easiest thing in the world to let him wage war unilaterally on the ground too. If anything, Congress will be even more eager to have its fingerprints off of ground operations.
Cody Poplin compares the several proposed AUMFs currently being circulated on Capitol Hill. But their authors might just be wasting paper, as Obama is signaling that he already has all the permission he needs. Matt Welch cuts him no slack for flouting the Constitution:
In last year’s run-up to what once seemed like inevitable war against Syria, the president made what can be interpreted as an incoherent claim: that he had enough legal cover to start bombing Syria, but that he would nonetheless seek congressional approval. When that approval was not forthcoming, the president decided on a diplomatic solution instead. But note how he treated the congressional-authorization question one year ago today:
[E]ven though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.
So either the president no longer believes these things, or he finds such beliefs to be an untenable hindrance in the waging of his latest war. At any rate, as in his more blatant nose-thumbing of Congress over U.S.-led regime change in Libya, Obama’s position on the constitutionality of war is essentially the opposite of what it was when he first sought the presidency.
But of course, as Steven Mihm points out, the American tradition of presidents going to war without explicit Congressional authorization goes all the way back to George Washington:
Washington sought “buy in” to go after the Indian tribes that began attacking white settlers on the western frontier in the late 1780s. Like the Islamic State today, they posed a threat that was at once amorphous, hard to reach, and even harder to combat. The Miami and Shawnee tribes of the Ohio River Valley had scalped and murdered settlers, stolen livestock and taken civilians captive. In 1789, Washington dutifully went to Congress, and warned lawmakers that it might be necessary to “punish aggressors” on the western frontier. Congress, preoccupied by other matters, declared that it wouldn’t “hesitate to concur in such further measures” that Washington had in mind. No formal vote authorizing war was held.
Meanwhile, Josh Rogin and Tim Mak note that the $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund Obama first proposed in May is back in play:
Several top Democratic and Republican senators told The Daily Beast on Friday that the administration has given Congress zero details about the proposed fund and consultations have been next to nonexistent. But Democrats said that was perfectly fine with them. “I support doing what we need to do to defeat ISIS,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez told The Daily Beast when asked about the fund. Senate appropriators are already preparing to hand Obama the $5 billion. The draft of the defense appropriations bill would give the Pentagon $4 billion of the funds. The draft of the State Department and foreign operations appropriations bill contains the other $1 billion. All the money would be classified as war funding in the overseas contingency operations part of the defense budget.