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White House seeks first war vote in 13 years; looks to authorize force against ISIS

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to formally authorize the use of military force in the war against ISIS, the first time a U.S. President has asked for such authorization in 13 years.

Lawmakers on Wednesday morning received a draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a resolution that would formally authorize a six-month U.S. military effort against the militant group. Shortly after the request was sent to the Hill, the White House announced Obama would speak to the public on the issue Wednesday afternoon.

The joint resolution would limit the President’s authority to wage a military campaign against ISIS to three years and does not authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” according to text of the resolution.

In a letter to Congress, Obama explained that the draft resolution would give him the authority to authorize “ground combat operations in limited circumstances,” including rescue operations and special forces operations to “take military action against ISIL leadership.”

The resolution would also sunset the 2002 AUMF that spawned the Iraq War. Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq in 2011, but the military authorization remains in effect.

The resolution drafted by the White House does not repeal the 2001 military force authorization that has served as the legal justification for the military campaign against ISIS and other U.S. military efforts to combat terrorism around the world.

The document also specifically notes that ISIS poses a “grave threat” to U.S. national security interests and regional stability.

And Obama detailed the ISIS threat in a letter to Congress accompanying the draft legislation.

“The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security,” Obama writes. “It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens”

As in the draft resolution, Obama goes on to name the Americans killed in ISIS captivity, “including James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller.”

There is broad support in Congress for a formal AUMF, though lawmakers disagree on the scope of the military powers that should be handed to the President.

Obama urged Congress during his State of the Union address to formally authorize the military campaign to “show the world that we are united in this mission.”

As he has said in the past, Obama noted in his letter to Congress Wednesday that he already has the authority to fight ISIS, “I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force” against ISIS.

Obama also stressed that the White House’s draft resolution would constrain the U.S. military effort and would not authorize “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Obama did not repeal the 2001 military authorization, he explained in his letter that he remains “committed to working with Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF.”

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