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Congress evading war powers even with US mission in Syria

Published:Tuesday | November 10, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Senator Tim Kaine (left) and Senator Christopher Murphy participate in a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.


In the battle against the Islamic State group, members of Congress talk tough against extremism, but many want to run for cover when it comes to voting on new war powers to fight the militants, preferring to let the president own the battle.

They might not be able to run for long.

The US military intervention in Iraq and Syria is creeping forward, putting more pressure on Congress to vote on a new Authorisation for the Use of Military Force. It would be the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.

Senator Tim Kaine, a leading force in the Senate for a new authorisation, said the reluctance to vote runs deep and that many in Congress prefer to criticise President Barack Obama's policy in Iraq and Syria without either authorising or stopping the fight.

"There is sort of this belief that if we do not vote, we cannot be held politically accountable. We can just blame the president," Kaine said.

"We are forcing people to be deployed far from home in a theatre of war, and risking their lives and losing their lives, and members of Congress are like 'I'm afraid of this vote because somebody might try to hold me accountable for it.'"