Dems: Obama 'Should Come to Congress' If Iraq Situation Escalates

By Susan Jones | August 13, 2014 | 6:49 AM EDT

Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) are on the left. (AP File Photo)

( - Two liberal Democrats on Tuesday said they support President Obama's limited air strikes in Iraq, but if things escalate, they agreed that Obama "should come to Congress."

"I supported the president's position and his -- his policy of limited and targeted assistance," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. "Beyond that, I said, and I continue to say, that this could lead into a broader regional conflict, and...I hope the administration is very careful and not allow that to happen.

"And if they change their policy or decide differently -- other than limited, targeted strikes to protect civilians and prevent a genocide and protect our embassy personnel -- they should come to Congress. We should have a debate. And we should cast a vote."

Rep. Steny Hoyer said he agrees with Lee that President Obama has "acted properly" in Iraq by sending humanitarian aid to stranded Iraqis and protecting American interests in Erbil from "radical Islamic jihadism."

"I think that all of us agree that boots on the ground are not in the offing at this point in time, nor should they be, as Barbara says, without further consultation and action by the Congress."

On the same day Lee and Hoyer spoke, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he is sending another 130 Marines to northern Iraq. Hagel called them "new assessment team members" who will "take a closer look and give a more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help the Iraqis with what they're doing and the threats that they are now dealing with."

Hoyer and Lee spoke on a conference call intended to promote the Democrats' jobs plan, but several reporters were more interested in their views on Iraq.

Lee said the only solution to the current turmoil is a political settlement. "The Iraqis have to step up. The world community has to come together and come up with a strategy to deal with ISIS," she said.

"And so, when we're saying we don't want this conflict to expand, we recognize that ISIS is dangerous, but we darn sure do not want to see our troops inserted into another war in Iraq." She admitted to being "worried and concerned" about an escalation of conflict.

Last month, Lee co-sponsored a resolution requiring the President to seek Congressional authorization before deploying combat troops to Iraq. "It passed 370 to 40," she said.

At the same time, Lee also sent President Obama a letter, signed by 100 lawmakers, reminding the president that the "use of military force in Iraq is something the Congress should fully debate and authorize."

Although Hoyer wants Obama to consult with Congress, he admitted, "I might go farther than Barbara, in that I believe that it is absolutely in the national security interest of the United States of America that the Kurdish region of Iraq, which has been the most stable, the most economically successful, and the most supportive of the ....United States -- we need to assist them in making sure that they are not overrun by this radical, very, very vicious movement, called ISIS or ISIL."

Hoyer said he has urged to Obama administration to "act decisively" in protecting the Kurdish area of Iraq.