Ky Congressional delegation split on U.S. airstrikes in Iraq


by Joe Arnold

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 8 at 6:21 PM

This story is being updated as WHAS11 receives comment from more local members of Congress.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Members of Kentucky and Indiana's congressional delegations are expressing a wide variety of reactions to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

"The President is taking necessary steps to protect American personnel and interests from direct threats of terrorist violence in Iraq," said U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky 3rd Congressional District) in a statement to WHAS11, "and to prevent an act of genocide by ISIL against the Yazidi people."

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky 4th Congressional District) argues that President Obama should have sought congressional approval for the airstrikes against militants in northern Iraq,

"Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress—not the President—the power to declare war," Massie said in a statement to WHAS11.  "These air strikes require congressional authorization, and the American people deserve open debate by their elected officials."

Massie contends that America's national security interests in Iraq are unclear, because Iraq poses no imminent threat.

"And, because the President has not articulated a long term strategy, I would vote against authorizing the use of military force in Iraq," Massie added.

The longest serving member of Kentucky's delegation, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-5th Congressional District), said the airstrikes are " duly warranted to protect Iraqi Christians seeking refuge from ISIS."

Rogers applauded the humanitarian aid to the refugees.

"However, with the engagement of the U.S. military in the region, the White House absolutely needs to formulate a broader strategy to protect our national interests and bring peace to those fleeing from extremists," Rogers added."

Calling the situation in Iraq "extremely serious," U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) said he understands the need for targeted military support, yet believes the Iraqi government must play a critical role going forward.

"That must include not only military action by Iraqi forces to push back ISIS, but also major changes to Iraq’s central government that will ensure meaningful political inclusion for Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities," Donnelly said in a statement to WHAS11.  "There can be no long-term stability unless Iraq’s own leadership changes course.”

Yarmuth's support for the most significant U.S. military action in Iraq in three years comes eight years after his anti-war stance toward Iraq helped him win election to Congress.  Yet, Yarmuth draws a distinction between targeted air strikes to protect American personnel in harm's way and sending hundreds of thousands of ground troops to fight a war.

Yarmuth said he is "pleased" that President Obama reiterated a commitment that no U.S. troops would be deployed on the ground in Iraq.

"I am confident Congress will hold him to that if necessary," Yarmuth said." It is up to the Iraqi people now to make the tough choices and decide their future."

WHAS11 is seeking comment from all local members of Congress regarding the military action.

The office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) disclosed that he had been advised in advance of the airstrikes.  McConnell, however, has not publicly commented on the military action as of Friday afternoon.

McConnell is campaigning in eastern Kentucky on Friday.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-1st Congressional District) said he is reserving comment until more details come out.