Early this morning, President Obama spoke to reporters in the Phillipines, and the presidential quote that’s getting all the attention is his attack on Republicans over their push to block Syrian refugees from entering the country: “At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three year old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.”

But Obama made another point that should not get lost in all the noise: Why is it that Congress is able to rouse itself so quickly to vote to keep out Syrian refugees, yet it still can’t bring itself to vote on the war itself, a year and a half after it started?

Per the White House transcript, here’s what he said:

“Oh, one last thing. With respect to Congress, I know that there’s been discussion about legislation suddenly surfacing around refugees. I’ve been waiting for a year and a half, or more, for legislation that would authorize the military activities that we’re carrying out in Syria as we speak, and have not been able to get anything out of Congress.
“And now, suddenly, they’re able to rush in, in a day or two, to solve the threat of widows and orphans and others who are fleeing a war-torn land, and that’s their most constructive contribution to the effort against IISL? That doesn’t sound right to me. And I suspect it won’t sound right to the American people.”

It’s a fair point. Now, as I’ve said before, both parties, and the president, too, are to blame for this massive abdication of responsibility. Obama should have sought authorization at the outset, and he waited far too long before proposing his own Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which he finally did some six months after the conflict escalated. This, plus the White House’s ongoing (and ludicrous) insistence that he already has the authority to wage this war based on the 2001 AUMF authorizing force against the perpetrators of 9/11 (which, in fairness, Obama has at least said he is open to seeing repealed), made a mockery of the whole process. But whatever Obama’s failings, they don’t give Congress an excuse for abdicating its own responsibility to hold a vote on the war. And both parties have punted here, too: While GOP leaders have balked at holding such a vote, Democratic leaders have not meaningfully pushed the issue, either.

Congress still could — and should — hold such a vote. But there are still no signs in sight that it is going to happen. And yet, only days after the Paris attacks, Congress is scrambling to vote on measures designed to “pause” the program allowing for Syrian refugees fleeing the war to come into this country.

This is not the first time we’ve seen such questionable priorities on display in this context. Last spring, when it became clear that an Iran nuclear deal was going to happen, and Republicans (and some Democrats) mobilized to stop it, some critics were quick to point out that Congress was displaying a craven double-standard: Members of Congress were far more eager to vote to limit diplomacy than to go on record about the war.

Now we’re seeing a similar dynamic around the question of what to do about the Syrian refugees. Congress will vote on something involving the refugees this week — though it’s unclear whether it will have any meaningful impact — yet right now, the political debate on the war itself is intensifying. Obama recently announced an expanded role for special operations forces in Syria, which suggests our involvement could continue expanding in the future. Meanwhile, the presidential campaign is heating up, meaning candidates in both parties are beginning to outline and debate their policies for dealing with ISIS in a conflict that obviously is going to carry over into the next presidency. Given this increased discussion, members of Congress should go on record with a vote to define the president’s authority to carry out this conflict — and the limits on that authority. This is a view held by three dozen lawmakers in both parties, who recently signed a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan demanding such a vote.

There is no mystery as to why this vote isn’t happening. It’s largely because senior members of Congress think it will be extremely difficult to bridge the gap between Democrats (who are wary of getting mired in an open-ended conflict and want to limit the president’s warmaking authority) and Republicans (who want, if anything, to expand that authority). And yes, it’s true, voting on the war might be a whole lot harder than voting just after a terrorist attack to get tough on the Syrian refugees, or voting to pretend to get tough on them. But that doesn’t mean Congress shouldn’t try.