December 09, 2014

Corker: Committee Passage of Partisan AUMF Against ISIS Would Weaken Our Nation

WASHINGTON – At a hearing today to consider an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned committee passage of a partisan bill at the end of the congressional session that does not become law would weaken the nation’s ability to defeat the terrorist organization. He continued to urge the administration to explicitly seek an authorization from Congress.

“I know we’re not going to get to a place [today] where the House and Senate are going to pass an authorization. And I just want to say that we weaken our nation when we begin a process like that and not actually enact it into law. I also think we hurt our nation when we attempt to pass something out on a partisan basis,” said Corker.

“The reason we’re here is a total failure of the president to lead on this issue and to send something up here, so we find ourselves divided…A better approach to me would be [for the administration] to send up the language that I think people have asked for, and there might be some more common ground than we think. But the one piece that I think is missing by [the administration] not asking explicitly [for an authorization] is we don’t have the opportunity to really delve into the strategy,” Corker added.

Referring to legislation being offered by the committee chairman, Senator Corker objected to restrictions on the president’s ability to confront ISIS when such constraints do not apply to other terrorist groups.

“Right now we can use all efforts against al Qaeda, but if we were to pass this authorization as written, we would be saying that against ISIS we can only do certain things; that somehow we must view them as a lesser evil than the al Qaeda group and the Taliban group we’ve gone after in Afghanistan,” Corker said.

Following questioning of Secretary of State John Kerry about the administration’s strategy against ISIS and their basis for accepting new authorization from Congress, Senator Corker anticipated committee members could work with the administration after the new Congress convenes in January to craft bipartisan legislation acceptable to a sizable majority of Congress and the White House.

“I do believe that what the secretary just said is true and that is if we sat down, understood what authority the White House is seeking, I believe there is a way for us to pass something that is bipartisan…and actually enact it into law,” said Corker. “I plan to conduct myself in a way that we don’t harden ourselves against each other prior to the first of the year,” Corker added.

Secretary Kerry told the committee, “We’re determined to work with you, first and foremost, to develop an approach that can develop broad, bipartisan support…I think we could engage in this effort over the next days and as we come back in early January.”

Secretary Kerry pledged to accept new authority provided by Congress as “the only source of legitimacy for the use of military force against” ISIS. He opposed restrictions on the use of ground forces that would “preemptively bind the hands of the commander in chief — or our commanders in the field — in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee.”