President Barack Obama told Congress he doesn’t need its approval for his plan to crush the Islamic State. The president is to announce his strategy to destroy the terrorist group, also known as ISIS, to the American people Wednesday and told congressional leaders Tuesday he hopes they will support it whether or not he requests their approval.
“The president told the leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL (ISIS),” the White House said in a statement. “The president and his team look forward to continuing extensive consultation with Congress."
The U.S. Constitution states the president must consult Congress before declaring war. However Obama’s typical strategies, such as the U.S. strategy on the Islamic State in Iraq, have relied solely on airstrikes, which Congress doesn’t necessarily need to approve.
Forty countries have said they will take part in a coalition to combat the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Within that group there is a 10-member NATO coalition, which includes a very reluctant Turkey, that Obama said would be the “core” group involved in his anti-ISIS strategy.
Given Obama’s past statements on how to bring about a successful coalition, his strategy is likely to involve providing more funds to local fighters and counterterrorism operations, additional airstrikes in Iraq and will highlight how important it will be to rely heavily on Sunni partners in the region, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He has also stressed the importance of an inclusive Iraqi government.
For the past three weeks, the Obama administration has relied on strongly worded but vague statements when speaking of crushing the Islamic State. The militants released a video purporting to show the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley in what they called a “Message To America.” Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry issued separate statements last week driving home the point the U.S. would destroy the militant group, but gave no clues about how they planned to do so.
“We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice because hell is where they will reside,” Biden said. He did not say where the gates of hell are, nor what the Obama administration planned to do when they arrived.
Members of Congress pushed for Obama to make a decision about fighting ISIS after the video of the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff was released last week. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said he would create his own legislation to allow the president to bomb Syria without congressional approval. In a separate statement Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called on Obama to at least keep congressional leaders and the American public informed on what the possible options were regarding the militant group.
"Mr. President, if you can’t come up with a strategy, at least tell us what the goal is regarding (ISIS)," Graham reportedly said, in a statement released Tuesday.
Obama is set to reveal his plan in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday night.