February 11, 2015 - It has been mere hours since President Obama sent Congress a draft authorization for the use of military force to combat the Islamic State, and the measure already is in trouble.
Rampant skepticism from both sides of the aisle threatens to scuttle the bill in the House before debate even begins. The problem, as described by several members, including a high-ranking Republican involved in the AUMF negotiations, is that there may be no legislative text that can thread the needle between hawks who want a full-scale military campaign against ISIS; libertarian and progressive anti-war members who want no intervention at all; and members who would approve the use of force, but only if it is specifically restricted in geography, length and scope.
The result could be a failure to pass any kind of authorization, which would simply mean the status quo—and the Obama administration proceeding with its operations against ISIS.
At a private meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday morning, Speaker John Boehner urged his members to "keep your powder dry," according to sources in the room, intimating that they should not outright reject the AUMF before they have a chance to change it.
He later told the press that the president's text is only the first step in what will be a long legislative process, complete with committee hearings and markups. But he added his own apprehension about what Capitol Hill sources described as a chorus of irreconcilable demands from far-flung ideological pockets of House members.