Swept into power by Tea Party-inspired crowds demanding stricter adherence to the Constitution, the Republican-controlled Congress has decided not to exercise one of the powers clearly given to the legislative branch by the Founding Fathers: the power to declare war.

Even when there is overwhelming support, resolutions authorizing military force are never simple, as members know they are making choices that history will prove to be right or wrong. Debates can last days, as nearly every lawmaker gets his or her say before voting....

Some Democrats, like Sen. Bob Menendez, want a narrow authorization that deals with ISIS alone and restricts the ability of Obama and his successor — it is widely believed this fight will continue after the next president’s inauguration in January 2017 — to send in masses of ground troops.

Others in Congress say it is wrong to tell the commander in chief how to fight the war, and want a more open-ended resolution. Menendez said these disagreements had kept the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he led last year, from agreeing on the wording of an authorization even though most members agree they should pass one.

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