Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Armed Services Committee Rep. Garamendi on President’s Address and ISIS Threat

September 11, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement on President Obama’s plan related to the terrorist organization ISIS:

“Yesterday, President Obama presented a strong case for a coordinated response to the brutal ISIS terrorist organization. The United States, working with Middle Eastern and European partners, can offer an effective response to ISIL through targeted air strikes, military advisers, and limited special operations. Coupled with the rise of a more inclusive Iraqi government, diplomatic coalition-building, and a comprehensive effort to cut off funds to ISIS, this is our best hope to prevent a lawless terrorist base of operations to flourish in Iraq and Syria.

“Left unchecked, the ideology, resources, and territorial control of the self-described Islamic State will continue to destabilize the Middle East, and as demonstrated by the horrific murder of two American journalists and threats presented during these filmed executions, they are prepared to export their terror campaign to the West. This is especially alarming given the number of European and American fighters who have joined ISIS’s cause. The ethnic cleansing campaign waged by ISIL against Yazidis, Christians, Turkmens, and Kurds is also abhorrent and largely preventable. While I am always reluctant to enter our nation into combat and have consistently cautioned against other interventions, I support this international mission, with smart diplomatic, financial, and military tools, to diminish and ultimately destroy the ISIL terrorist organization.

“However, after extensive briefings on these issues, I have serious concerns about the scope and nature of our mission against ISIS in Syria, particularly related to the arming of Syrian rebels. I believe support for Syrian rebels is a related but separate debate. I do not have confidence in the wisdom of a $500 million supplemental expenditure to Syrian rebels as has been proposed. We also need to carefully examine the consequences of air strikes in Syria. There are scenarios in which I support air strikes against ISIS in Syria, but the scale and scope of this mission must be limited.

“Moreover, I think we need to have a real conversation on the expected length and total personnel devoted to this operation and the benchmarks in which we will consider our intervention successful. Mission creep is a real possibility in this situation, and we need to proceed carefully. Congress has oversight powers to address these concerns, and we must use those powers. That’s how the American government is supposed to work.

“During the President’s speech, he made it clear that he ‘welcomes’ Congressional approval of this plan. Respectfully, Congressional authorization isn’t just ‘welcomed’; it’s required under the U.S. Constitution and War Powers Resolution. Under the War Powers Resolution, the President is given 60-90 days to wage this war without Congressional approval.

“However, the President does not have the power to call a vote in Congress. That power rests with the House and Senate Congressional leadership. It is Speaker Boehner’s duty and obligation to bring this issue up on the House floor for a debate and vote. To do otherwise is a dereliction of duty and cowardly surrender of Congressional authority, which is very peculiar considering this Majority in the House of Representatives has sued the President arguing an overreach of executive powers.

“If this conflict continues without a Congressional vote in approval, the President will use the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force as his justification. I’ve worked tirelessly to put an end date on this AUMF, because it is dangerously vague and overbroad. That AUMF was a direct response to the 9/11 terror attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda. No matter how evil ISIS is, they had nothing to do with those attacks. ISIS only emerged after our invasion of Iraq in 2003. While they started as an affiliate of Al Qaeda, they have since broken off coordination and are in fact a stated enemy of Al Qaeda with different objectives in the region. While I agree with the President on the threat of ISIS, I’m not prepared to accept any Administration’s power to engage in limitless, indefinite, and open-ended military action against any terrorist threat. Only Congress has the power to wage an extended war, and we must vote on this issue. We have a balance of powers in this nation for a reason.

“The President has presented his case, and I stand with him in support of the basics of this mission. Now it is time for Congress to stand up and be counted. It is our Constitutional duty to call a vote on this issue. Let’s call the vote now, before it’s too late.”