Washington: US senators will debate the war against jihadists in Iraq and Syria next week, as several congressional lawmakers demand a formal vote on the military campaign launched by President Barack Obama.
A public hearing featuring administration officials, possibly including Secretary of State John Kerry, will be held Monday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman Robert Menendez said Thursday during a heated meeting on the subject.
The panel will debate ongoing operations and a possible new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State group.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Kerry`s office was "looking at the schedule" for a possible Senate hearing appearance, and that he is "happy to engage when he can."
A committee vote set for Wednesday would put several senators on record demanding a new AUMF for the anti-jihadist campaign, but the measure has no chance of being adopted by the chamber before the end of the year.
The measure is a congressional resolution expressly authorizing the president to engage militarily.
Since anti-IS operations began in August, Obama has maintained he has legal war authority under the AUMF passed by Congress against Al-Qaeda and its supporters after the September 11 attacks of 2001.
But many lawmakers contended that a 13-year-old authority was insufficient for conducting operations now against IS.
Committee Democrats want to craft a new AUMF -- one that prohibits deployment of US ground forces -- before ceding Senate control to Republicans in January.
But Republicans say they want to wait until 2015 to launch a debate, and not automatically hamstring US forces with a restrictive authorization hastily penned before the December holidays.
Democrats were "wanting to go on record before they went home: no boots on the ground," snapped Republican Senator Bob Corker, the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman.
House Speaker John Boehner meanwhile expressed "grave concerns" that Obama`s plan was insufficient to defeat IS, and said his chamber would debate the subject, but next year.
"We need a more robust, comprehensive strategy, and that should start with a new authorization of the use of military force," Boehner told reporters.
The White House has so far declined to submit its AUMF text to Congress, muddling the customary pathway for the authorization process.
"There`s a conspiracy in silence in this town about this," warned Senate Democrat Tim Kaine, who advocates swift new use-of-force authority.
"At least let`s give this military operation a legal imprimatur."
But Republican Senator John McCain and other national security hawks warned Democrats against a narrowly written authorization, particularly one banning deployment of ground troops.
They stressed that Congress`s role is not to legislate how the president and Pentagon conduct a war.
"If we`re going to pass an authorization that says that we can`t do certain things... what`s the message to ISIS?" McCain asked.
"I can`t imagine anything more encouraging to ISIS" than to pass a resolution restricting the use of US troops, he added.