The world was shaken by a series of devastating terrorist attacks that claimed dozens of innocent lives in Paris. Reportedly carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the senseless attacks demonstrate that these terrorists are becoming bolder and more violent by the day, intending to terrorize and harm all of humanity.
Given the escalating conflict in the area occupied by ISIL in the Middle East, the recent attacks against our French ally and the threats surfacing against America, it is critical that swift and decisive action be taken to destroy this barbaric enemy. As the extent of American intervention is determined in the days and months ahead, lawmakers and President Obama must be on the same page.
Before the heartbreaking situation unraveled in Paris, President Obama had announced the need for American combat operations and continuation of air strikes in Syria and Iraq. However, as charged by the Constitution, Congress is the branch of government that holds war-making power. While the president serves as commander in chief and is meant to offer a clear strategy for defending the United States when and wherever threats arise, any recommended military action must be authorized by both chambers of Congress before it is enacted.
So far, no such authorization for the use of military force has been brought up for debate and consideration in either chamber of Congress. I believe that is a mistake capable not only of jeopardizing the power of the legislative branch of government but further damaging America’s perceived strength to our friends as well as our enemies. Now especially in light of the attacks that occurred in Paris, I believe it is past time for Congress to weigh in.
Earlier this month, I joined with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in sending a letter to urge newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan to prioritize consideration and debate of an AUMF. All 35 lawmakers wrote in the letter, “Congress can no longer ask our brave service men and women to continue to serve in harm’s way while we fail in carrying out our constitutional responsibility in the area of war and peace.” We urged Speaker Ryan to “direct the committees of jurisdiction to draft and report out an AUMF as soon as possible.”
If Congress continues to do nothing to check the president’s recommended course of action, it will further empower him to wage undeclared, unconstitutional war. I am hopeful that our chamber will soon debate legislation that appropriately deals with the threat posed by ISIL, and I hope that the Senate joins in taking similar action. Considering the despicable violence caused by the terrorist group and the innocent blood on its hands, we must have an effective plan to combat ISIL that is offered by the president, approved by Congress and supported by the majority of Americans. Anything less would be an injustice to those who volunteered to risk their lives to serve in the line of duty.
Far too close to home, Oklahomans are still grieving the loss of one of our own killed by ISIL. Unquestionably a true hero, Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was tragically killed last month during a U.S.-Iraqi joint mission to free 70 hostages held captive by ISIL in Iraq. His selfless sacrifice cannot be in vain. Neither can we or will we forget the attacks in Paris. Instead, it must be followed by strong American resolve to destroy the barbaric terrorist enemy.
Unfortunately, it is clear that our country cannot avoid this conflict. Further delay in taking real and thoughtful action only allows ISIL to grow stronger and threaten more innocent lives. Something must be done, but both the legislative and executive branches of our government must be united in the effort.