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Maine Delegation: Obama Should Seek Congress' Approval for Action Against ISIS

As President Obama prepares to address the nation on U.S. policy in response to the risks imposed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, members of Maine’s congressional delegation are expressing concerns about his assertion that he can act without congressional approval.

President Obama has already made it clear to leaders in Congress that his policy is to degrade and eventually destroy ISIS through a series of diplomatic and military actions. And while he says he'd welcome the support of Congress, he has stated that he has the authority to take action without its approval.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, says she opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is worried about about military action against ISIS. "Boots on the ground is a whole other step," Pingree says. "Again, I am open minded to listening to him. I even have some concerns about the air strikes, but, you know, it’s a horrible thing going on there right now."

Pingree says additional funding for military operations against ISIS will be a hard sell in Congress with members in both parties. Maine’s other Democrat, Congressman Mike Michaud, says the president has to outline a clear policy that includes diplomatic as well as military goals, and a strategy to achieve those goals.

"He definitely has let us know what his plans are. What are the next steps?" Michaud says. "And I think he has to make it very clear. We need a comprehensive strategy - it’s not just giving money with no strategy in how we are going to confront ISIS."

Michaud believes that the president should consult with Congress on his plans to address the dangers posed by ISIS. Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, agrees. She says ISIS poses a national security threat to the United States, as evidenced by the terrorist group's brutal attacks on Iraqi villages, and the executions of two American journalists.

Collins says that, so far, the Obama administration has not put forth a plan to address the real dangers posed by ISIS. "If, in fact, ISIS is able to establish a safe haven in Iraq, it will endanger Americans all around the world, including here in the United States," she says.

Independent Angus King, who also serves on the Intelligence Committee, says he's very worried about the prospect of ISIS expanding its reach in the Middle East and undermining what little stability there is in the region.

"Some level of involvement is justified," King says. "If you had asked me a year ago I would have probably said no, I can’t conceive of a place I thought we would want be involved. But these guys are really dangerous."

King says he doubts any set of strategies will successfully defeat ISIS, and that the best policy will be to contain the group and prevent the spread of its radical ideologies to other areas of the world.

The delegation members say they will carefully review the president’s case, but say he should not expect Congress to simply rubber stamp his plan.

MPBN Radio and TV will broadcast President Obama’s address to the nation this evening at 9:00.