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Sen. Cardin: New Authorization To Fight ISIS Unlikely

" would be worse to go through a process and not get a consensus," Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Ben Cardin said Wednesday.

Posted on May 20, 2015, at 10:19 a.m. ET

Sen. Ben Cardin
Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

Sen. Ben Cardin

WASHINGTON — Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Ben Cardin Wednesday warned passage of a new authorization for the use of military force to continue to fight ISIS is highly unlikely and that a debate that does not end with a consensus position would be worse than doing nothing at all.

"I am not optimistic that we will be able to achieve a successful completion of an authorized use of military force" legislation this year, Cardin told reporters during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Echoing Chairman Bob Corker, the Maryland Democrat also said that a debate that ends up with a divided Congress — or legislation that the Obama administration opposes — would be worse that simply punting the issue until divisions can be worked out.

"I'm with Sen. Corker, I agree, that it would be worse to go through a process and not get a consensus," Cardin said, pointing to "fundamental differences" within the Senate over the size and scope of a new AUMF.

President Obama sent a letter to Congress in February requesting new authorization to continue combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The administration, however, has said they believe they have authority for their current operations under the AUMF passed in 2001.

Senators disagree over many core issues in the administration's proposed authorization, but Cardin believes agreement can be reached on several of them — notably eliminating the 2002 AUMF that covered the war in Iraq, whether there should be geographic limitations, and to a lesser extent the question of allowing for the possible involvement of ground forces.

"But then what do you about the 2001 authorization … and there I think there's a significant disagreement in Congress," Cardin said, as well as whether or not a new AUMF should cover the Assad regime in Syria.

Cardin, however, made clear that he is disappointed Congress has not yet acted on a new AUMF. "Its our responsibility to pass legislation authorizing the use of military force. And if we don't … we create a void that the administration will fill," he said.