Some Democratic lawmakers may be ready to compromise with Republicans on preparing for the possibility of war against the Islamic State militant group. Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Hill Thursday that he plans to introduce a proposal in the coming days that would allow the use of ground forces in combat as long as the president obtained a vote from Congress.
“We're still working out details,” Engel said, according to the Hill. “Certainly we don't want to tie the president's hands if there's a rescue or an emergency.”
Republicans and Democrats have been going back and forth about the issue of ground troops in combat as the United States and other countries debate how to tackle the growing problem of the terrorist organization, aka ISIS. Since the group has claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks this year, America and its allies have agreed to work together more than ever to combat global terrorism. However, many Republicans have said they do not believe the Obama administration is doing enough.
It was not clear Friday how many Democrats would support Engel’s measure, especially given that many progressive lawmakers completely oppose putting U.S. troops on the ground in combat. The proposal goes beyond the request the White House sent to Congress last February, when President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to formally authorize the use of military force. At the time, Obama emphasized that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) did not call for the deployment of ground troops in Iraq or Syria, CNN reported.
Republicans feared Obama’s proposal could hinder military commanders, and Democrats said it was not restrictive enough to rule out an open-ended ground war in the Middle East.
The proposal comes after House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked Foreign Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California to discuss with other Republicans what measure they would support. Royce has scheduled three listening sessions with GOP members over the next couple of weeks, the Hill reported.
Another Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, is proposing an even more compromising measure. His proposal for AUMF would not ban ground forces in combat and would instead allow any member to call for a vote or repeal or revise the authorization if the president should decide to use ground troops. This marks a shift from Schiff’s last proposal, which did not authorize the use of ground troops.
“Conservatives will applaud the fact there's no limit on ground troops and that it authorizes force against al Qaeda, [ISIS] and the Taliban. Democrats can applaud the fact that the authorization will be sunset in three years and that there's a privileged motion to vote on any introduction of troops,” Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in his proposal.
A number of other representatives — both Democrats and Republicans — have introduced AUMF proposals. This change has made Schiff more optimistic about finding a compromise, he told the Hill.
“Anything that tries to bridge the gap between the two parties is going to be a challenge,” he said. “I'm very encouraged that a window has opened, and they're moving forward with this. ... There's really a deep interest in moving forward, and that's very positive. I hope the president will address it in his speech next week.”
Still, others remain more skeptical. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, for example, said he thinks Republicans are not sure if Obama is taking ISIS seriously.
“As I said before, there's a lot of anxiety on my side of the aisle about the president, whether he really wants to beat ISIS or not,” he said Thursday, the Hill reported. “And so you're asking people to authorize the use of military force when they don't have confidence in the commander in chief and whether he's all in on the mission, and that makes it hard.”