Boehner: Obama Should "Start Over" on AUMF

Boehner: Obama Should "Start Over" on AUMF
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House Speaker John Boehner criticized President Obama’s strategy against ISIS Tuesday, and said the president should again seek an authorization from Congress for the use of force against the terror group.

Boehner said at a press conference that ISIS’ capture of the key Iraqi city of Ramadi shows that “hope is not a strategy.” He added that Obama’s overarching strategy against the terror group in Iraq and Syria is not working, and he called on the president to come up with a new one.

The president sent Congress draft language for an authorization for the use of military force in February, but immediate and stark disagreements over the amount of power it does or doesn’t give the commander in chief stalled any momentum the AUMF request might have had.

“The president's request … calls for less authority than he has today,” Boehner said. “I just think, given the fight that we're in, it's irresponsible. This is why the president, frankly, should withdraw the authorization of use of military force and start over.”

Democrats on both sides of the Capitol disagreed with the Republican leader, suggesting that Congress should work to mend the language it has now to try to find common ground.

“That’s ridiculous,” Sen. Tim Kaine, one of the most vocal lawmakers calling for an AUMF, said of Boehner’s remarks. “That’s just a dodge. It’s on Congress’ shoulders and it has been since, frankly, we came back in, in September. There’s a war going on and it’s not supposed to happen without a congressional declaration.”

Kaine added that he thinks the future of the AUMF relies not on the House but on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which he is a member.

“I can understand why the House is dodging, and it’s been clear to everybody the House will not do anything unless the Senate does, and if the Senate does something and it’s bipartisan the House may, but they’re not going to do anything if the Senate doesn’t lead,” Kaine said.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said there are some concerns about the draft the White House submitted in February, but it is unnecessary for Obama to send new language to Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s up to us to try to come together,” Cardin told RealClearPolitics. “We don’t need anything more from the president at this point. We will need input from the president if we can get close to authorization, but I think at this point we’ve got to get our act together.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Rep. Adam Schiff called Boehner’s comments “merely the latest rationalization for House inaction on our Constitutional responsibilities.”

Schiff, in a press conference with Kaine in February, said he thought, “as a practical matter, we’re talking weeks” for congressional action on the force authorization. “I hope we’re not talking months.” In a breakfast with reporters Tuesday prior to Boehner’s comments, Schiff said he has become “increasingly discouraged” about an AUMF.

“At the end of the day, it’s a horrible illustration of congressional indifference and apathy and political interest,” Schiff said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also responded negatively to Boehner’s comments, saying Congress has been “AWOL” on the AUMF.

“The president has been very clear about what he would like to see from Congress, and that is Congress fulfilling their constitutional responsibility when it comes to matters of war and peace,” Earnest said.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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