U.S. Senate Democrats oppose ‘blank check’ for Islamic State fight

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ لِيَصُدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَسَيُنْفِقُونَهَا ثُمَّ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِمْ حَسْرَةً ثُمَّ يُغْلَبُونَ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ يُحْشَرُونَ

“Those who disbelieve spend their wealth barring access to the Way of Allah. They will spend it; then they will regret it; then they will be overthrown. Those who are disbelievers will be gathered into Hell.”

(Al-Anfaal, 8:36)


By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Democrats made clear on Wednesday they have serious concerns about President Barack Obama’s war authorization request for his campaign against Islamic State, despite appeals from top administration officials for bipartisan support for the plan.

“Democrats are not willing to … give this or any other president an open-ended authorization for war, a blank check,” Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at a hearing as senators begin considering Obama’s request for a formal authorization for the seven-month-old campaign against Islamic State.

Democrats on the panel said they were concerned that Obama’s proposal does not set geographic restrictions on the campaign against the militant fighters. They also worry that it does not include strict enough limits on the use of ground troops.

Many Republicans, who often criticize Obama’s foreign policy as too timid, want the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) to have fewer restrictions on military commanders battling Islamic State.

Ashton Carter, Obama’s secretary of defense, testified that the administration sees a more limited campaign than has been undertaken in other recent wars.

“It is intended … clearly to rule out the kind of campaign we waged in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don’t foresee that that kind of campaign is necessary,” Carter said.

In addition to Carter, witnesses at the hearing were Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Obama’s request for an AUMF against Islamic State has made little progress since he sent it to Congress a month ago, and may never pass, due largely to opposition from his fellow Democrats.

Some Democrats also want the AUMF proposal to repeal the 2001 authorization passed for the fight against al Qaeda, one of the authorities that the Obama administration is using for the Islamic State fight.

The administration officials insisted that the 2001 authority must continue to protect the country against the threat from al Qaeda.

Asked about the partisan divide in Congress, Kerry said it would be worse to have an AUMF passed by only one party than to have none at all, noting the importance of sending a united message not just to Islamic State militants but to U.S. allies. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Leslie Adler)