President Obama’s announcement he's going to bomb the Islamic State is giving him some new Republican partners from Virginia on Capitol Hill, while also causing headaches for many in his own party.
This hyper-partisan Congress just got a little more fractured - only this time it isn't breaking along party lines.
Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott sits on the Judiciary Committee. While he remains a firm supporter of the president, he says the commander in chief is misguided in thinking he can use what Congress passed in the wake of 9-11 to bomb Syria now. “If a thirteen-year-old authorization in another country for another enemy is the basis for going forward now then we’ve essentially repealed the war powers act and amended the Constitution.”
War hawks remain critical of the president's foreign policy, but they also want ISIS rooted out. While many in the GOP remain dubious of the president's request for additional funds to arm moderate rebels, Virginia Republican Congressman Randy Forbes is promising to help carry the president's message to skeptics in his own party. “We’re going to have to help with the funding in some manner.”
Still, Forbes remains critical of President Obama’s handling of Syria and the Islamic State up until now. “It’s not like he said, OK, this is the decision. We need to do it. He waited until the American people through their polls told him, you got to do something, you know? And so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully we can do this, but this is a tough thing to do, and it’s going to take a while to get it done. So he’s going to have to have a commitment that lasts more than just a single speech.”
Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith is also critical of the president but says he maintains his support. “He hasn’t made the case, but ISIS has.”
Polls show that Americans are now firmly behind military strikes against ISIS, but Congressman Forbes warns voters and the president that rooting out extremists won’t be quick or easy. “But this is a tough thing to do, and it’s going to take a while to get it done. So he’s going to have to have a commitment that lasts more than just a single speech.”
While many Democrats ran their last few campaigns on promises of unwinding wars abroad, they're now torn between their war-weary base and a president of their own party.
Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and many Democrats say it’s vital that the president isn’t given a blank check. “I mean, there’s always the risk of mission creep in any military venture, and we have to guard against that. That’s why I believe an authorization that helps codify the parameters is also important.”
If that mission does extend it could impact the tens of thousands of troops from the commonwealth or who are stationed throughout Virginia. But for now lawmakers from Virginia are resisting calls from more hawkish members to put troops on the ground.
Northern Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says that’s why working with moderate forces is key“We’re going to have to find them, though. Vetting them is going to be a problem.” But Moran believes in the strategy. “But then we’re going to train them, we’re going to equip them outside of Syria, and they’re basically going to be our Special Forces boots on the ground.”
House lawmakers were expecting to spend Monday outside of Washington, but have now been called back so they can focus on the president's request for new authority and funds.
“I believe the Congress should stay until we act. And if that means we postpone or cancel the planned recess between now and the election that’s fine with me," said Connolly.