Rep. Peter King told Newsmax on Wednesday that he would not currently grant President Barack Obama new war powers to battle the Islamic State (ISIS) because "he should not be abdicating responsibility.
"He's the commander in chief," the New York Republican said, referring to the president's request for the authority submitted earlier in the day. "He should not be sending signals to the enemy telling them what we're going to do and what we're not going to do.
"Again, he's showing a reluctance to use American power and you should never let the enemy see that," King added. "Let them think we're going to use everything. Let them think we're going to use every weapon at our disposal."
King, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, was among many Republicans who slammed Obama's draft authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) because it did not call for U.S. ground troops and specified a three-year time limit.
Obama did, however, leave open the possibility of using special forces
in limited circumstances.
"It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq," Obama said in a brief speech at the White House outlining the request. The president sought to differentiate military efforts under his watch from the unpopular wars the U.S. launched under President George W. Bush.
He declared that the U.S.-led military coalition would succeed in destroying ISIS (or ISIL).
"ISIL is going to lose," President Obama said, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. "Our coalition is strong, our cause is just, and our mission will succeed."
Obama's request came a day after the confirmed death of U.S. aid worker Kayla Mueller, 26, of Prescott, Ariz., at the hands of ISIS terrorists. She was captured in in August 2013 and was the last-known American hostage held by the jihadists.
But the proposal was greeted skeptically by Democrats, with New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez predicting to Jake Tapper on CNN, "I think it can pass, but certainly not in its present form.
"There's a tough needle to thread here from the Democratic side," said Menendez, a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "There are many who are concerned that after endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the last thing they want to do is vote for something that gives an endless opportunity."
Republicans charged Obama with tipping his hand to ISIS by being too specific in his request, while not detailing an overall strategy to destroy the terrorist group.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that Obama's speech "will never replace Churchill."
"Among our friends and allies, he is seen as uncertain," Graham said. "Among our enemies, he is seen as weak."
Arizona Sen. John McCain welcomed Obama's proposal but voiced "deep concerns" about its restrictions — as well as the president's refusal to take on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's role in the growing terrorism climate in the region.
"This is a recipe for failure," McCain said.
Both he and Graham serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain chairs the panel.
House Speaker John Boehner said that "ISIL is at war with our country and our allies.
"If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options."
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking GOP member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the effort to destroy ISIS "a generational fight.
"We cannot arbitrarily say we will be done in three years. Let’s be honest with the American people," he said. "I want commanders to get it done. All reasonable military options should be on the table.
"A broad, flexible AUMF sends a clear signal of our resolve to partners and allies that we will support them until ISIL is defeated," Inhofe said.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, an Armed Services Committee member who called for an authorization last year, charged that "President Obama’s passive leadership has invigorated terror threats around the world.
"We can’t pretend an AUMF is sufficient," Vitter said. "It’s important, but what’s more important is a clear, cohesive strategy from the president."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, among several 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls to attack the request, called on Congress to "strengthen the AUMF by making sure the president is committed to clear objectives and a specific plan to accomplish those goals.
"That should begin by clearly defining the enemy as 'radical Islamic terrorists,'" Cruz added.
In his speech, Obama referred to the Islamic terrorism raging in the Middle East as "violent extremism."
"We will not be able to win the war against radical Islamic terrorism as long as our commander-in-chief refuses to recognize who it is we are fighting," Cruz said.
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, however, urged caution as Congress debates Obama's request.
"The president’s request for an AUMF is one that should not be taken lightly or considered without doing the due diligence that such a request requires," she said. "As we proceed through this process, I will continue to visit with our military commanders and seek their input and guidance.
"ISIL poses a growing threat. We must have a plan to eliminate them."
King characterized the president's speech to Newsmax as "typical President Obama.
"You're in or you're not. You can't be taking one step forward and one step sideways. You can't look apologetic. You can't look defensive.
"If you're going to put men and women's lives at risk and put them in harm's way, then you have to reserve every power that you think is necessary to achieve the goal and to protect those men and women that you're sending into combat."
Regarding Obama's declaration that ISIS will "lose" the coalition fight, King said: "I hope that ISIS does lose, but right now they're not losing. They're not invincible … , but we have to make a concerted effort to defeat them and stop them.
"ISIS is not losing," King said. "They have been slowed somewhat in Iraq, but they're far from losing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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