(NBC News) – Congress is doing two important things today in the war against ISIS:
They’re looking over the President’s request to expand the war, and deciding who will be in charge of it.
Less than 24 hours after the President’s authorization request made it here to Capitol Hill, there’s already robust debate about what it does – and does not – do.
This afternoon Congress votes on Ashton Carter as Defense Secretary.
He’d take over a war President Obama wants to expand up to three years in Iraq, Syria, and perhaps beyond. “The President should have all the tools necessary to win,” said House Speaker John Boehner, (R) Ohio.
“There is no appetite for any boots on the ground except in limited circumstances,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D) California.
The key issue is whether Congress will authorize what the President calls limited “enduring offensive combat.” “Very broad, very ambiguous. None of us know what enduring offensive combat operations means,” said Adam Schiff (D-CA) of the House Intelligence Committee.
President Obama explains. “I will only send our troops into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary for our national security, said President Barack Obama.
“I’m not going to vote for anything that has the interpretation we can have combat ground forces on the front line fighting someone else’s war,” said Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia.
Military leaders insist this war cannot be won by air alone. “We know we need competent partners on the ground. They don’t necessarily need to be US boots on the ground.” Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary.
Democrats want more detail. “So we don’t have an open ended check and so we don’t have another Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Robert Menendez, (D) New Jersey.
Republicans want more leeway. “We may not advocate that for now, but why take that off the table?” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), House Homeland Security Committee.
A vote may not happen till March.
Between now and then, lawmakers say President Obama needs to convince the public why we may need American troops on the ground.