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POLITICS: PennAve

Senate Democrat to file bill for airstrikes in Syria

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Politics,Congress,Barack Obama,Democratic Party,National Security,Syria,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Bill Nelson,ISIS

At least one Democrat is beginning to lay the groundwork for Congress to give President Obama authority to launch airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Monday night he would file a measure giving Obama “clear authority” to order the bombing when Congress returns next week.

He announced the plans the same day ISIS circulated a video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff one week after the group released a video of the murder of another American journalist James Foley.

“Let there be no doubt,” Nelson said in a statement. “We must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty.”

It’s unclear if Nelson, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, is acting alone or with the backing of his Democratic leaders. A spokeswoman said only that no vote is scheduled yet, and Nelson plans to introduce the bill either as a stand-alone resolution or as an amendment to the must-pass defense authorization bill.

Returning from their one-month August recess, other Democrats appeared to be in a similarly confrontational mood when it comes to fighting ISIS.

On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Intelligence Committee, told NBC that Obama is “very cautious – maybe in this instance, too cautious.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Friday said the committee has asked administration officials to testify in September and “lay out clearly to the American public what the objectives are and what authorities they will be asking Congress to provide.”

Even though most Americans adamantly oppose sending troops to Iraq and Syria, a strong majority support U.S. airstrikes in Syria against ISIS. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll released late last week found that 60 percent of Americans support an airstrike campaign in Syria while just 20 percent are opposed.

President Obama last week tamped down talk of an immediate plan to escalate military operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

After meeting with his national security team Thursday, he told reporters that “we don’t have a strategy yet,” for potential airstrikes in Syria. Spokesman Josh Earnest later tried to clarify the statement to say Obama is pursuing a broad strategy to fight the militant Islamic group involving enlisting international and regional partners, helping assist Iraqis with humanitarian missions and protecting Americans threatened in Iraq.

When it comes to Syria, though, Obama said his plans are still developing.

“We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans so we’re developing them,” he said. “… My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains [ISIS] made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself.”

Obama said he had clear authority as commander in chief to continue launching airstrikes in Iraq and said he would continue to consult with Congress, noting that “it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in.”

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