Kadner: Lipinski Tells Colleagues to Return to D.C.
Congressmen should leave their campaigns for re-election and return to Washington, D.C., to focus on the ongoing war with ISIS, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski.
In a news release, Lipinski, D-3rd, also questions whether the Obama administration has proper congressional authority to conduct bombing attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
“I don’t think it was the right thing for Congress to adjourn and leave Washington to campaign for re-election while there remain so many unanswered questions about what we’re doing in Iraq and Syria,” Lipinski told me in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Lipinski said that although the United States has been bombing terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria for nearly two weeks now, “we have no idea exactly what is being targeted or how successful the bombing has been.”
Lipinski, who voted for a measure authorizing the administration to train and equip Syrians to fight ISIS “once they’ve been vetted and cleared of terrorist connections,” said he’s concerned that Congress never authorized the ongoing air strikes.
“I do not oppose the idea of air strikes against terrorist targets or the president’s handling of the situation to date, but he’s acting under congressional resolutions that date from 2001 and 2002,” he said.
The 2001 resolution passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks masterminded by al-Qaida, and the 2002 measure authorized President Bush to send troops into Iraq.
“Are they relevant to this use of the military to bomb Iraq and Syria?” Lipinski said. “I think it’s our (Congress) duty to provide oversight, and I believe we need to pass a specific resolution addressing this situation.”
Lipinski acknowledged that it’s “very unlikely” that representatives and senators campaigning for re-election, especially in tightly contested races, would leave their home districts and return to Washington.
“Would I rather be in my district campaigning than in Washington?” Lipinski said. “Sure. But it’s my job to be in Washington serving the people of my district. It’s what I get paid to do.”
Returning to Washington, Lipinski said, would allow congressmen to receive both public and private briefings on the progress being made in the campaign against ISIS.
“I would really like to know how we’re identifying targets in Syria,” he said. “Who exactly are we targeting? What are we targeting? How are we evaluating the success, or failure, of these missions?”
Lipinski said that he believes ISIS, which he referred to as ISIL (an alternative acronym for the terrorist organization), is a “serious threat to this country.
“That’s why I don’t believe Congress can wait five weeks to be updated on the campaign, and it would be five weeks before Congress is scheduled to return to Washington after the elections.
“Even then, there is some talk that a lame-duck Congress should do nothing until the new members are seated, which would push back any congressional action by several more weeks.
“As we have seen in the past, this is a rapidly developing situation, and it’s difficult for me to justify campaigning when we should be in Washington getting daily briefings.”
My guess is that some people will view Lipinski’s call for congressional action as a campaign tactic.
I don’t see it that way. Political analysts do not view Lipinski’s seat as being in jeopardy.
And his attack on fellow congressmen isn’t likely to win him any friends in Washington, either in the Obama administration or on Capitol Hill.
Lipinski always has been something of a political maverick, aligning himself with Republicans in Congress, for example, on bills to encourage U.S. manufacturing and the government purchasing products made in this country.
For many years, instead of renting an apartment in Washington, he slept in his congressional office (a practice that he only recently changed).
Whenever I’ve talked to Lipinski, I’ve found him to be extremely thoughtful about the positions he takes and conscientious about his obligation to examine issues thoroughly.
I don’t agree with many of his votes, but I respect the fact that he has done his homework and is not a knee-jerk ideologue.
As for the war on ISIS, the Obama administration contends, in part, that it is merely an extension of the war on al-Qaida because ISIS grew out of that terrorist organization.
That’s some pretty weak reasoning, and using a congressional authorization that is more than a decade old to justify the air strikes seems like a stretch.
“What’s the long-range plan?” Lipinski asked. “What is our ultimate goal here? Does the administration even have a long-range plan?”
Lipinski said the only plan may be to keep ISIS occupied so its leaders do not have a safe haven to plan attacks on U.S. soil.
“Congress ought to be seeking answers to all of these questions right now because if we wait until next year it may be too late,” he said.
Lipinski noted that the congressional authorization to train and equip Syrian rebels expires in December and will need to be renewed.
Personally, I would like to know how the U.S. is picking the “good” Syrians and identifying the “bad ones.”
In the volatile Middle East, the people who seem like your friends one day can often be shooting at you the next.
As for training the Iraqi military, I thought we spent about 10 years doing that before we left the country.
That didn’t work out very well, did it?
“I think it’s fair to say that this campaign against ISIL is likely going to last several years,” Lipinski said.
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