Reaction to Obama Speech a Preview of Debate to Come

In the coming days, lawmakers in the House and Senate are likely to be debating and voting on aspects of the President Barack Obama‘s plan, laid out in his Wednesday-night speech, to address the threat posed by Islamic State militants. Their reactions provide a preview of the discussion to come. Here is a collection of some of the comments from both sides of the Capitol after the president spoke.

Sen. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the strategy laid out by the president was just the first step. “Tonight was a start, but it remains to be seen whether the administration, after much delay and denial, develops and executes the sustained commitment needed to destroy ISIS by building a powerful coalition against these brutal jihadists.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), who has raised concerns about expanding military operations, said she told Vice President Joe Biden earlier this week that “The American people deserve to know what we’re moving into.” She added: “I don’t want to see 10 years later ISIS 2 or another terrorist organization emerge because of how we mishandled what was taking place now.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) said he was glad the president acknowledged that Congress has an important role in U.S. military operations. “The president does acknowledge the need for congressional approval of his plan to support the Syrian opposition and invites broader congressional support of the multinational effort to defeat ISIL. I look forward to working with my colleagues to craft a narrow authorization for that mission,” Mr. Kaine said.

Sen. Dan Coats (R., Ind.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned the president was overestimating the ability of pro-Western rebels to respond to Islamic State militants and exaggerated U.S. successes in Yemen and Somalia. “We still have real challenges there,” Mr. Coats said. “I thought he oversold what we have accomplished there and oversold what the Iraqi army and Free Syrian opposition forces can do.”

Sen. Angus King (I., Maine) said lawmakers have a constitutional responsibility to have a broader debate about the U.S. response to the terrorist group. “As a member of an institution that represents the collective voice of the American people, I believe that a robust debate in Congress would help better define our national interests, the inherent risks involved in such operations, and our desired outcome,” Mr. King said. He and colleagues are working on a limited authorization for a U.S. use of force in the region.

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said the White House was making a mistake by not requesting greater input from lawmakers. “I believe the president is exercising poor judgment by not explicitly seeking an authorization from Congress where consensus can be reached around a substantive plan of action and support can be built for an operation that he has described will take several years,” Mr. Corker said.


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