If you are still persuaded that Congress might — just might — vote on President Obama’s escalation against ISIS after the elections, you are probably being too optimistic. We may not get any Congressional vote until next year.

In an interview with First Draft’s excellent Carl Hulse, House Speaker John Boehner delivered the news:

“I have made it clear that I think the House and the Congress itself should speak,” the speaker said in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with First Draft.
But Mr. Boehner believes a post-election, lame-duck session is the wrong time for such a weighty decision. “Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” he said.
Mr. Boehner, who is open to a more expansive military campaign to destroy the Islamic State, thinks lawmakers should take up the issue after the new Congress convenes in January…
“I would suggest to you that early next year, assuming that we continue in this effort, there may be that discussion and there may be that request from the president,” he said.

The Times is presenting this as a sign that Boehner is really, seriously, going to hold a vote on war, whether or not the President makes a formal authorization request. That’s nice, but the really noteworthy thing here is the lack of urgency. You have to love the idea that this is too “weighty” a decision to make during the lame duck session, but not “weighty” enough to vote on before the escalation actually launched, let alone before an election in which voters deserve to know where lawmakers stand on a matter of such great consequence.

To be clear, this is a bipartisan leadership failing. Democratic Congressional leaders have also dropped the ball here, claiming Obama has the authority to escalate without Congressional approval, in order to do the President’s bidding. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has offered no credible rationale for failing to seek authorization.

But as some members in both parties have pointed out, despite Obama’s abdication of responsibility to come to Congress, lawmakers could force the issue on their own. Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen wants Congress to “revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force in a way that supports the targeted actions underway, but also prevents the deployment of American ground forces that would drag us into another Iraq War.”

Democratic leaders such as Senator Dick Durbin have indicated that Congress will debate and vote on the war in December, because the narrower authorization for arming and training the Syrian rebels against ISIS runs out at that time. Yet if Boehner’s timetable is any indication, one imagines Congress could simply push through a short-term extension of that, putting off the broader debate on war once again.

There probably will be a broader debate and vote on war at some point. But how much war-making will have unfolded by then without Congressional authorization?


Update: Chris Van Hollen doesn’t think the President has abdicated responsibility, but that Congress has so far abdicated its own responsibility to amend and vote on a new AUMF.


The GOP’s relatively thin 47-44 lead in the current polls also strongly suggests that this is not a tide election—which could affect the heated battle for control of the Senate in a handful of key states. If the GOP is to regain control of the Senate, it will have to be on the strength of its Senate candidates, not on the coattails of a decidedly pro-Republican national mood.

If this is right, GOP chances may hinge on the closing performances of Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Dan Sullivan in Alaska. Oh yeah, and Senator Pat Roberts in Kansas.

* ALISON GRIMES TURNS TO POLICY: The Daily Independent of Kentucky reports that Alison Lundergan Grimes is rolling out a three-pronged plan to fight the rise of drug use in the state, particularly in the northeastern part. Grimes has been criticized for not clearly spelling out why Kentuckians should be for her, so this may signal a heavy emphasis on what she would do as Senator — including the minimum wage hike, pay equity, and her jobs plan — in the final stretch.

* IS IT TOO LATE FOR GRIMES? Reid Wilson reports that Grimes is set to ramp up the advertising big time:

Growing consensus among Democratic strategists is that…Grimes let Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell define her too early. Well Grimes has started emptying the bank account to reverse that trend: She’ll spend almost $600,000 this week alone on ads, and a whopping $750,000 between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6.

Watch for whether there’s an emphasis on policy.

* WHY KAY HAGAN IS LEADING: Nate Cohn has a good piece explaining that Senator Kay Hagan is now the “modest favorite” against GOP challenger Thom Tillis, which could help Dems erect a “firewall” to keep the Senate. It’s all about education:

Mr. Tillis is struggling to counter relentless attacks on his handling of the state education budget, which fell $481 million short of continuing previous levels of education funding…Education isn’t a flashy national issue, but it is one that can cut across national party lines. The polls suggest that the attacks have been successful, and there’s evidence that education ranks high on the minds of voters.

It’s another sign that the hard right turn of the state legislature is a major factor in this race, despite all the talk about Obama’s approval and the national environment being dominant. Hagan leads by 3.4 points.

* ATTACKING THE FOOD STAMP PRESIDENT: FactCheck.org demolishes Arkansas GOP Senate candidate Tom Cotton’s wretched ad claiming he only voted against the farm bill because Obama “hijacked” it and “turned it into a food stamp bill.” Food stamp money has been in farm bills for decades.

Cotton’s effort to explain this vote by blaming the Food Stamp President suggests it’s a political problem for him; indeed every other Arkansas Republican voted for it. Expect this to loom large in the race’s closing days.

It is not enough for Republicans to remind [voters] of Mr. Obama’s many failings; voters want to know how the GOP would move the country forward. Republicans must keep three plates spinning at once: encouraging voters to send Mr. Obama a message, defending themselves against brutal Democratic attacks, and laying out a governing vision.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that, with clear explanations of what they’d replace Obamacare with and what they’d do differently against ISIS — two issues that are supposedly big winners for Republicans.

* NEW RULING ON WISCONSIN ‘JOHN DOE’ INVESTIGATION: A federal appeals court has lifted a previous state court injunction blocking an investigation into whether Scott Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated with outside groups on fundraising. No one has been charged, and it’s unclear when the probe might resume, but it could continue to be an issue in Walker’s reelection campaign, which is already extremely tight.

* GOP’S LONG TERM PROBLEM ON IMMIGRATION: Jeb Bush campaigned in North Carolina yesterday, and dared to float the idea of immigration reform. As the New York Times reports today, Senate candidate Thom Tillis immediately dismissed such chatter as “amnesty.”

The Times remarks that this presents a “preview of the challenges he would face with his party’s conservative base,” should he run for president. I’d argue it also prevents a preview of how far to the right the GOP as a whole will remain when immigration is debated in that primary.