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Obama seeks ‘buy-in’ on Islamic State strategy from Congress

President Obama called congressional leaders to the White House to review his strategy against the Islamic State, ahead of a planned national address. Party leaders remain conflicted about how to best oppose the group. Meanwhile, new polls found that a majority of Americans support an expanded assault. Gwen Ifill reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now: how to combat the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. It's the biggest problem facing political leaders in Washington this week.

    President Obama called congressional leaders to the White House this afternoon to review the strategy he will outline tomorrow night for the nation.

    He made no public comment, but spokesman Josh Earnest said the president is looking for congressional buy-in.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    The president believes that's important because he understands that Congress has and should have a role as these important decisions are being made.

    This is a priority, because the president believes that when you have the executive branch and the legislative branch, Democrats and Republicans, bridging divides to present a united front, both to our enemies, but also to the international community, it only strengthens the hand of our country as we confront those threats.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But the White House wouldn't reveal if Mr. Obama will seek formal authorization to use force against the Islamic State group.

    And party leaders themselves remained divided over how to move forward. Democratic Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid was taking a wait-and-see approach.

  • SEN. HARRY REID, Majority Leader:

    I'm inclined to not rush into anything. Tomorrow, the president is addressing the nation. That doesn't happen very often. And Thursday afternoon, we're having a briefing here from the administration on what's going on in the Middle East. So I don't know how others feel, but I'm just going to wait and try to get the facts.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner was also noncommittal about seeking a vote. He said it depends on what's in the president's plan.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: What I'm hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS and destroys them. We have a very serious problem. And what we need is a strategy. And until there is a strategy, there is no reason to talk about any of the specifics.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it's in the president's interest and the country's interest to take the issue to Congress in advance.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader:

    The view of myself and most of my members is the president should be seeking congressional approval, period, for whatever he decides to do, because that's the way you hear from those of us who represent everyone in the country. That's the way you get congressional support.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The U.S. military has been conducting limited airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq for four weeks, without congressional approval. New polls out today found a majority of Americans believe it's time to ratchet up the assault. A survey by The Washington Post and ABC News reported 71 percent of those polled now support expanding airstrikes in Iraq. In addition, 65 percent back striking Islamic State bases inside Syria. A CNN survey showed similar results.

    The administration is also trying to create an international coalition of supporting states. Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington today to travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

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