WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to work with him on a new authorization to use military force against the Islamic State group to replace the outdated authorization forged after 9/11.
Speaking the afternoon after his party was dealt a punishing blow in the midterm elections, Obama said a new military authorization is one of a few areas where he will seek to work with Congress during the lame-duck session before a new Congress is seated in January. He said the goal was to update an authorization narrowly tailored to the fight against al-Qaida to be more applicable to the current mission against IS extremists in Iraq and Syria.
"It makes sense to make sure the authorization from Congress reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward," Obama said.
The conversation was to start Friday, when Obama said he'd update congressional leaders about the fight against IS during an Oval Office meeting. Obama said he wanted the process of crafting the new authorization to start now, but that finalizing it could carry over into next year, when a new Congress will usher in GOP control of the Senate.
"I'm confident we will be able to get that done," Obama said.
Obama also said it was "too early to say" whether the U.S. and its coalition are winning in their fight against IS extremists in Iraq and Syria.
Previously, the White House has cited Congress' 2001 authorization to wage war on terrorists responsible for 9/11 as legal grounds for its airstrikes against IS in Syria. The Obama administration has also cited the invitation from Iraq's leader for the U.S. to strike IS targets there as a justification.
Passing a new authorization would mark a new chapter for U.S. military engagement in the Middle East, further drawing the U.S. into a region where Obama had hoped to end wars, not start them.
In September, during a heated congressional debate over training moderate Syrian rebels, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said a new authorization was something that lawmakers should consider. But he also suggested the lame-duck session was the wrong time to do it and that the vote should wait until next year.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday called on Boehner to schedule a vote on a new authorization before the current Congress draws to a close. In a letter to the House speaker, Schiff said no president has the power to commit its citizens to war without Congress, insisting it was "not a decision that can or should wait until 2015."