Congressman Peter Welch says the time has come for Congress to fully debate legislation that authorizes the use of military force in Iraq.
Welch says he could support this bill as long as it takes a narrow approach and doesn't call for the United States to deploy additional troops. He says he's growing increasingly frustrated with Congressional leaders because he says they don't see a pressing need to address this issue.
Currently, the United States has roughly 3,000 military advisors in Iraq and President Obama has just authorized the deployment of an additional 450 troops to help train and assist Iraqi forces in their battle against ISIS.
Welch says it's critical for Congress to have a full-scale debate over how the U.S. should address the threat posed by ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is an extraordinarily dangerous organization – vicious – and the question of force is one that is of great consequence," says Welch. “What our policy should be there is something that Congress should debate and then we should have an authorization that meets the policy objectives that a majority of Congress supports."
By not holding this debate, Welch says there's no question that Congress is abdicating its Constitutional responsibilities. "I think the inexcusable position is that Congress basically neglects exercising its responsibility under the War Powers Act and then just stands on the sidelines while the commander in chief has to act independently," he says.
Welch says he could vote for a war powers resolution that provides additional U.S. support for the Iraqis to help them develop a strong military presence against ISIS. But he says he'll strongly oppose efforts to place additional U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq.
"There are some things that I think a lot of us would be willing to support as long as it is in a role of supporting, not leading," says Welch. “This conflict has its roots in centuries old divisions and it's a cauldron of conflict over there. It was Al Qaeda, now it's ISIS, and it can be something else."
The congressman says he's encouraged that many U.S. military leaders agree with his position on this issue. "Our military folks are the ones that are urging caution on a military approach. What they realize is that this conflict, as bad as it is, and vicious as ISIS is, has its roots in the political division between Sunni and Shia and they see that there has to be a political solution," he says.
The House defeated a bill late Wednesday that called for the removal of all U.S. troops in Iraq in the next 30 days. Welch says he voted for the legislation as a way to force Congress to finally debate the authorization issue.