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Obama looking for congressional support on ISIS

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Brian Yaklyvich/CNN

Brian Yaklyvich/CNN

(CNN) — Congressional leaders on Tuesday will get a first glimpse of President Barack Obama’s plan to “degrade and defeat” the Islamic militants who have taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Top lawmakers will hear from Obama during a midafternoon session in the Oval Office, kicking off a concerted White House effort to rally support behind a strategy to go after the ISIS terrorists. That push will continue Wednesday when Obama lays out his plan in a televised speech.

Lawmakers from both parties have said they want a say in whatever action the United States takes to confront ISIS, though neither Obama nor White House aides have specified whether they’ll seek congressional authorization for military action against the Sunni militants.

Administration officials were planning to brief all lawmakers on the ISIS threat this week as well as their strategy for confronting the terrorists. Part of the plan includes building a coalition of nations willing to help defeat ISIS.

Secretary of State John Kerry planned to travel to the Mideast on Tuesday to press Sunni leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia to do more in combating the jihadists.

A year ago Obama failed to secure congressional support for airstrikes inside Syria after international observers concluded President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on civilians. The current air campaign inside Iraq, which has included more than 100 strikes against the militants, was launched without lawmakers’ specific approval using Obama’s power to protect American interests abroad and help alleviate humanitarian situations.

White House lawyers must determine if a plan to go after ISIS further, which could include airstrikes on targets inside Syria, would require a vote in Congress. Lawmakers, who have yet to hear specifically what Obama is planning, are eyeing a potential vote on war authorization warily as midterm elections approach in November.

Polls have long showed Americans tired of war after long engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, though a CNN survey released Monday showed a large majority — 76% — supported additional airstrikes against ISIS. More than seven in 10 said Obama should ask Congress for approval, and eight in 10 said Congress should grant it.

“If this is going to be a prolonged fight against ISIS, it seems to me that there is no way to avoid coming to the Congress for an authorization for the use of military force, which comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic chairman of that panel.

“We’re not there yet,” he said Monday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “Part of considering such an authorization will depend upon the strategy that the President outlines.”

The White House said it’s continuing to seek a “buy-in” from Congress on any plan to defeat ISIS, though officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean a vote on military action.

“It’s important in the mind of the President for Congress to be a partner in these decisions,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

“They have a solemn responsibility as the elected representatives of the American people to be engaged in this process. But ultimately, it is the responsibility of the commander in chief to make the kinds of decisions related to our military that rests on the shoulders of the President.”

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