If the Obama administration is to win congressional approval for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), it will have to win over Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the committee that will hold the first hearings on granting war powers to the president.
"I think we should act, not just debate. We’re going to begin a robust set of hearings as soon as we get back. They already are being set up," said Corker Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
The Tennessee Republican added that he believes "there is a lot of skepticism about the administration’s commitment to dealing with ISIS or Daesh or ISIL or whatever you want to call them."
Corker said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's goal is "to have a process that No. 1 determines the threat to our homeland, and No. 2 … looks at what is the president's strategy, especially in Syria.
"I think there is a lot of skepticism about the administration's commitment to dealing with ISIS … and that creates a lot of concern, so we are going to have the opportunity to look at that, to look at what is happening in Iraq, and then hopefully … create language that can, in fact, pass muster in both houses of Congress," he said.
He characterized the AUMF as a "beginning point" that is "now a legislative vehicle."
Indicating that he opposed any time constraint on the use of force, he stressed that "this is something that is going to take a long commitment by all of those in the free world to undermine what ISIS is doing."
Corker has not hesitated to criticize the lack of presidential leadership global affairs, or its commitment to a firm and clear policy in Iraq and Syria.
"I think one of the bigger issues for people is really getting a sense from the administration that they are committed to something that is successful … I’m already getting that," he told Defense One
, adding that the administration's strategy is "something that feels like it’s more superficial than substantive."
Working in the administration's favor, however, is that Corker's approach is more measured than some of his Republican colleagues, as was apparent in his statement issued after the president sent the AUMF to Congress
. In that statement, Corker said that he hopes Congress "will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat."
That approach has led to some attaching to him the label of "moderate," but Corker prefers to think of it a bit differently.
"I don’t view myself as a moderate in any way. I do view myself as someone who tries to solve problems.
"In a body where votes matter, you have to have a majority, and certainly bringing the two parties together is important, especially on big issues," he told Defense One in an interview.
Corker does not favor unnecessarily tying the hands of President Obama, or any future president, which places him at odds with Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the committee.
"The last thing we want to do is have an open-ended conflict without limitations. That’s the challenge … to give the president the authority and the support to defeat ISIL but not to give him and the next president an open-ended ability to conduct a very prolonged war with combat troops on the ground and everything we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan," Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who voted against the Iraq war resolution as a House member in 2002, told Gannett News
Corker will also have to craft an AUMF that can win approval of those in the House who want a bolder strategy toward combating ISIS, such as New York Rep. Peter King.
"Well, my reluctance is because the president is putting restrictions. I think it would make the situation worse, and on the other hand you have Democrats, also some of the isolationists in the Republican Party, who don't want us engaged in a ground war no matter what.
"I'm just saying, if you're going to go to war, and this is a war, you cannot be tying the hands of the president and the president should certainly not be tying his own hands," King said Sunday on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures."
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