President Barack Obama’s plan for U.S. involvement in the escalating crisis in Iraq won’t require congressional approval, said congressional leaders who met with him at the White House on Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the meeting at the White House, where the group met for about an hour.
The meeting came in the wake of new developments in the country, as insurgent militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group battled to seize control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery. Last week, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and its leader has boasted the group intends to march to Baghdad.
The pow-wow did not come without its partisan sniping. McConnell said after the meeting that Obama “indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take.” His account was disputed by both a White House official and a senior Democratic aide briefed on the meeting, who both said Obama indicated to Congress he would keep consulting with them.
“Whether intentionally or not, Senator McConnell’s comments mis characterise the tone and the substance of the meeting. The President was very clear that he would keep Congress in the loop,” the senior Democratic aide said.
In a statement after the meeting, Pelosi said she didn’t believe Obama would need congressional approval for the “particular options for increased security assistance discussed today.”
Obama is still weighing options for U.S. involvement — though he has said he won’t send in U.S. ground troops, and airstrikes appear to be a declining possibility despite a public plea from the Iraqi government on Wednesday.
The U.S. is currently flying unmanned drones and manned F-18s over Iraq to collect surveillance, despite the fact that F-18s are primarily attack aircraft.
“It’s not so much about looking as it is being seen,” a U.S. official told Fox News.
During his last briefing on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney didn’t comment on whether the White House felt it needed congressional approval for the options currently on the table. He did say, however, that this situation is different from when Obama decided to ask for congressional approval to take action in Syria last year.
“I would note at least for the sake of clarity, the differences you would see in those circumstances, where in this case, as someone noted in an earlier question, the sovereign government of Iraq has requested assistance,” Carney said.
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