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Republican leader: Obama may act on own in Iraq

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and congressional leaders believe he does not need authorization from Congress for some steps he might take to quell the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency sweeping through Iraq, the Senate's top Republican and congressional aides said after the president briefed senior lawmakers.

Still, the prospect of the president sidestepping Congress raises the potential for clashes between the White House and rank-and-file lawmakers, particularly if Obama should launch strikes with manned aircrafts or take other direct U.S. military action in Iraq. Administration officials have said airstrikes have become less a focus of recent deliberations but have also said the president could order such a step if intelligence agencies can identify clear targets on the ground.

Obama huddled Wednesday in the Oval Office for over an hour to discuss options for responding the crumbling security situation in Iraq with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Speaking to reporters as he returned to the Capitol, McConnell said the president "indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take."

Pelosi concurred with the president, saying in a statement after the meeting that Obama does not need "any further legislative authority to pursue the particular options for increased security assistance discussed today." She did not specify what options were discussed.

An administration official said it was the leaders who suggested Obama already had existing authorities to take additional action in Iraq without further congressional authorization. The official downplayed the notion that Obama agreed with that assessment, saying only that the president said he would continue to consult with lawmakers.

The White House has publicly dodged questions about whether Obama might seek congressional approval if he decides to take military action. Last summer, Obama did seek approval for possible strikes against Syria, but he scrapped the effort when it became clear that lawmakers would not grant him the authority.

However, administration officials have suggested that the president may be able to act on his own in this case because Iraq's government has requested U.S. military assistance.

"I think it certainly is a distinction and difference worth noting," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday of the comparisons to the Syrian situation.

In addition, an authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, passed by Congress in 2002, is still on the books and could potentially be used as a rationale for the White House acting without additional approval. Before the outburst of violence in Iraq, Obama had called for that authorization to be repealed.

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President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 18, following a meeting with students, entrepreneurs and inventors, during the first ever White House "Maker Faire".

(AP)

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