Reality Check: Does President Obama Need Approval of Congress to Fight ISIS?

The U.S. Congress began debate Monday over what authority to grant President Obama in his fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

While the president has said he “welcomes” Congress’ approval of the war against the radical terrorist group, the president has also repeatedly said he already has the war powers he needs to fight ISIS and can act without Congressional input.

Is this true? And, what is the president referring to when he says he already has the power he needs to fight ISIS?

The president and top White House officials have argued that they have the power to fight ISIS because of the 2001 military authorization Congress gave then-President Bush to fight the terrorist groups who participated in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Think al-Qaeda and groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The problem with this reasoning is that ISIS and al-Qaeda aren’t associates anymore – they are actually fighting each other in Syria right now. And, in February, as The Washington Post reported, the head of al-Qaeda went so far as to state that ISIS “is not a branch of the al-Qaeda group… does not have an organizational relationship with it and [al-Qaeda] is not the group responsible for their actions.”

However, as Think Progress, a liberal-leaning publication, noted in a recent article, “the fact that matters most [for the Obama Administration] is that ISIS began its life as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the branch set up following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.”

The president is essentially saying that once-associated with al-Qaeda, always-associated with al-Qaeda.

However, this argument hasn’t sat well with a number of Members of Congress or prominent constitutional law experts who have argued that President Obama is misusing the 2001 war powers authorization.

Whether or not this will lead Congress to act remains to be seen. At the end of the day, Congress has the ability to repeal the 2001 war powers authorization and/or issue a new authorization that specifically relates to ISIS.

Contact Us