Rep. John Garamendi on Wednesday introduced an amendment to the defense appropriations bill requiring President Barack Obama to seek congressional approval before returning to sustained military action in Iraq.
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, introduced the bill with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, following a classified briefing from defense and intelligence officials to the House Armed Services Committee.
“In 2003, Congress should have resisted the rush to a war of choice with Iraq. I will do everything in my power to prevent us from repeating the mistakes of my predecessors,” Garamendi said in a statement. “I am deeply skeptical of reigniting America’s involvement in Iraq’s civil war, and if my amendment is adopted, we’ll at least ensure a serious debate on the merits of returning to Iraq.”
The amendment would limit defense funding from being spent on military action if it violates the War Powers Resolution.
For now, Obama has shifted his focus away from airstrikes in Iraq as an imminent option for slowing a fast-moving Islamic insurgency, in part because there are few clear targets that U.S. could hit, officials said.
Officials said the president has made no final decisions and ultimately could approve limited strikes if stronger targets emerge. The CIA and other spy agencies are scrambling to close intelligence gaps in the region and track the movements of key figures in the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which seized Mosul, Tikrit and other towns in Iraq as the country’s military melted away.
The president summoned top congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the collapsing security situation. The relentless violence marks the greatest threat to Iraq’s stability since the U.S. military withdrew at the end of 2011 after more than eight years of war.
Ahead of his meeting at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the U.S. had no business sending American troops into the midst of what he called Iraq’s civil war.
“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. Taking on Republicans who have blamed the current violence on the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Reid said, “Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough. American families have had enough.”
Obama has ruled out returning combat troops to Iraq in order to quell the insurgency. However, he has notified Congress that up to 275 armed U.S. forces are being positioned in and around Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. interests.
Garamendi’s amendment would not affect the Obama administration’s plan to increase embassy security.
Officials have said Obama is also considering sending a small contingent of special operations forces to help train the Iraqi military. Other options under consideration in include boosting Iraq’s intelligence about the militants and more broadly, encouraging the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to become more inclusive.
The U.S. has also made initial overtures to its longtime foe Iran, which has an interest in seeing the Iraqi government survive, though officials have ruled out the possibility of military cooperation with Tehran.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that he opposed outreach to Iran because it sends the wrong message to American allies in the Middle East given that the Islamic republic is alleged to have sponsored terrorism in the region. Boehner is among the leaders who will meet with Obama at the White House.
The most aggressive option under consideration at the White House has been airstrikes, most likely by drones, though officials have also looked at the possibility of launching strikes from manned aircrafts. However, at this point, officials have been unable to identify clear targets the U.S. could hit in Iraq that could slow the militants’ momentum.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the U.S. does have a request from the Iraqi government for the Obama administration to use air power to stop the militants.
The officials would not be quoted by name because they were not authorized to discuss the classified details publicly.
Garamendi, who opposed the Iraq war, has called for the administration to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan. He also opposed taking military action in Syria.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.