WASHINGTON • Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has set the stage for debate on a Bill that would give President Barack Obama broad authority to use military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mr McConnell has generally opposed the idea of revisiting the US President's authority for military operations in the Middle East, warning that the legal language favoured by the Obama administration contained limitations that could tie the hands of the next president.
Republicans have resisted accepting responsibility for military operations that might restrict their ability to criticise the White House's foreign policy initiatives, which they mostly view as unsuccessful.
But Mr McConnell's aides said the new Bill, sponsored by fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was broad enough and would provide a new platform for showcasing what the party views as Mr Obama's failings in combating ISIS.
In his State of the Union speech this month, Mr Obama called on Congress to authorise military action against ISIS. "Take a vote," he told lawmakers.
PUSH FOR NEW BILL
It gives you all the power you need to fight (ISIS) anywhere they go, using any method necessary, and as long as it takes. I hope Senator McConnell will bring the Bill to the floor. The American people need to have this debate. The Congress needs to step up and here's the question: Are you all in? They are all in against us. They are moving all over the globe.
''REPUBLICAN SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, on his Bill to use military force against ISIS.
"I agree with the President that Congress should act regarding giving him authority to fight (ISIS)," Mr Graham said. "Here's what I propose: That the authority to fight (ISIS) is not limited by time, is not limited by means, or location.
"Here's what I am asking the President to do: Get behind my resolution. It gives you all the power you need to fight ISIS anywhere they go, using any method necessary, and as long as it takes."
Mr McConnell on Thursday took a procedural step that will allow him to put Mr Graham's Bill directly on the Senate calendar, bypassing the normal committee process.
Senate Democrats have not indicated how they would respond to the measure. Previously, Republicans and Democrats have taken the position that Mr Obama can rely on the war authorisation to combat terrorism that Congress granted after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.
Separately on Thursday, Senate Republicans sharply criticised the administration for moving forward with carrying out the President's nuclear deal with Iran, saying that the easing of economic sanctions would provide tens of billions of dollars that Iran could use to sponsor terrorist groups.
Several senators seized on comments by Secretary of State John Kerry at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he said it was possible some money made available to Iran through sanctions relief could ultimately flow to terrorists, though he said he did not see the money being directed to such groups yet.
"Talk about stating the obvious," said Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. "They were supporting terrorism when their economy was crippled. They were choosing to put their money into guns... before they had this economic relief. So could it be any more obvious?
"And to have him actually now say, 'Oh, you know, well, we think some of this might go to terrorists.' Duh!"
NEW YORK TIMES