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Congresswoman Barbara Lee Urges Speaker Paul Ryan To Debate Use Of Military Force Against ISIL

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents the East Bay in the U.S. House of Representatives, was among the lead authors of a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan Wednesday urging him to bring up for debate authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

One year after President Barack Obama submitted to Congress a draft authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), over 20 members of Congress penned a letter Wednesday urging Ryan to bring the item up for debate.

The president's draft AUMF would authorize the continued use of military force "to degrade and defeat ISIL" without the use of the United States Armed Forces in long-term offensive ground combat operations.

Representative Lee, along with California representatives Adam Schiff, John Garamendi, Sam Farr, and Mike Honda, as well as other Democrat and Republican members of the House of Representatives from around the country, sent a bipartisan letter to Ryan calling for a debate and vote on the war raging in the Middle East.

"Tomorrow will mark one year since President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF. Over the last 365 days, it has sat on the Speaker's desk while our nation has become increasingly more embroiled in yet another costly and endless war in the Middle East," Lee said. "The Constitution is clear: Congress has a responsibility to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. The American people deserve better than a Congress that abdicates this sacred responsibility."

The letter to Ryan coincided with testimony by Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday.

McGurk testified Wednesday, "Our ongoing campaign and diplomatic efforts have significantly reduced their ranks, and will continue to do so, but ISIL still controls territory, economic resources, and maintains networks that penetrate from Syria into Europe. Separate from the threat of ISIL, the organization continues to target civilians as a matter of policy, enslaves and forcibly marries thousands of young women, and pillages our ancient history and cultural heritage. This is an organization that must be destroyed, as a matter of our own national security, and as a matter of our common humanity and decency."

In January, Obama said during his State of the Union address, "If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote."

Obama said during his address that the U.S., despite the lack of AUMF approval, has for more than a year "led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL's financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we're taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We're training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria."

On February 11, 2015, Obama wrote a letter to members of Congress arguing that ISIL poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and poses a threat to U.S. national security. He said that while existing statutes provide him the authority to take action, he expressed his commitment to work with Congress to pass a bipartisan AUMF against ISIL.

The authorization would allow the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership and authorize the use of U.S. forces in intelligence collection and sharing.

Obama has also said that an existing AUMF, which was passed following the September 11, 2001 attacks and authorized use of military force against the perpetrators of those terrorist attacks, is no longer needed and should be repealed.

Lee was the only member of Congress in 2001 who voted against George W. Bush's decision to invade Afghanistan and warned her colleagues to be "careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target."

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter

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