Washington, Dec 10: Secretary of State John Kerry has asked Congress for new war powers to provide the legal grounding for US military operations against the Islamic State, but said any new authorization should not limit the fight to Iraq and Syria and should not bind President Barack Obama from ever deploying ground troops against the group if necessary.
In the US battle against the Islamic militants, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations that former President George W Bush used to justify military action after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the US.
Critics say the White House's use of post-September 11 congressional authorizations is a legal stretch at best. Obama has insisted that he had the legal authority to send about 3,000 US troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces, and launch hundreds of airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria since September.
More recently, the president has said that he wants a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, but Kerry's testimony is the first time an administration official has publicly outlined what elements the White House wants to see in a proposal.
Senator Robert Menendez, the outgoing Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined both Democrats and Republicans in lamenting that if the White House wants a new AUMF, it should have sent suggested language to Congress months ago.
US has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq to fight against IS
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat, says he doesn't want Congress to go home for the holidays while there are US service men and women fighting overseas and risking their lives, and wants to Congress vote to put its imprint on the conflict. "We are at war," Kaine said, adding, "Congress has been silent about this."
Still, few expect that Congress will approve new war powers before the end of the lame-duck session this year. In January, Republicans will control both the Senate and the House.
"Whatever passes out of committee this week is not going to become law," said Senator Bob Corker, the incoming republican chairman of the committee. He said the committee also wants to hear from intelligence and defense officials.
Kerry on Tuesday said the administration believes a proposal drafted by Menendez is a good starting point, but that the administration seeks some important changes.
Generally, Kerry said the administration is seeking an authorization that does not include a geographical limitation.