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Rep. Jackie Speier: 'Imperative' To Have A Coalition In Taking On ISIS


California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier sits on the House Armed Services committee, which was briefed today about ISIS and other matters. And she joins us now from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: And representative Speier, from what you heard today, would you support airstrikes against ISIS targets and do you expect there'll be an actual vote to authorize or support those strikes?

SPEIER: I don't believe there's going to be a vote before we recess for campaign season. I do believe that the president recognizes his obligation under the War Powers Act to notify us, and has notified Congress with each action he's taken. By doing so, the clock starts running again. And he has 60 days in which he can act without Congress taking action. But I do believe Congress must act.

SIEGEL: A year ago, when President Obama was speaking of airstrikes against - not against ISIS, but against the Assad regime in response for chemical attacks - you didn't support that. What do you make of the fact that within the space of the year the president has proposed airstrikes both against the Assad regime and against a group that is fighting to overthrow the Assad regime?

SPEIER: I mean, it shows you how explosive this region is right now. I mean, ISIL was hardly a blip on the screen last year when the president was seeking to have Congressional support for attacks in Syria. They were one of a group of opposition leaders. And there's grave concern by members of Congress - I think by the American people - that ISIL is different. That their barbarism has really shocked the American people and actually much of the Arab League and countries in the Middle East because the interests of ISIL is re-creating the land of Levant, which would incorporate many of the countries in that region. And so you can see growing concern that once they're successful in Iraq and Syria, they will be coming after Jordan and Lebanon and Israel and other countries in the region.

SIEGEL: A year ago when President Obama was talking about airstrikes, it was House Democrats, like yourself, who were very skeptical and were hearing tremendous opposition from their constituents. Today, we have a couple of polls showing, at least nationwide, huge majorities of Americans who seem concerned about ISIS and who seem open to airstrikes. Do you sense that difference, or do your constituents feel differently about this than they felt a year ago about airstrikes?

SPEIER: Well, clearly a year ago, I had palpable opposition - phone calls coming into the district and they were running easily 9:1. And I would say at this point, I have gotten some calls, but not nearly the volume nor the intensity of calls.

SIEGEL: How important is it to you but that the president speaks of robust roles that will be taken by countries in the region - Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan?

SPEIER: I think it's imperative that anything we do in the region be not a solo operation. We have learned a painful lesson by attacking in Iraq. We have sullied our name in many areas in the region and it is imperative for us to have a coalition that will come together and support an effort to destroy, or somehow dismember, the ISIL entity.

SIEGEL: Representative Speier, thanks for talking with us.

SPEIER: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: So Jackie Speier, Democratic Congresswoman from California and a member of the House Armed Services committee, which had a briefing today on, among other matters, ISIS. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.