Senators introduce bill to update Trump's war authority

Senators introduce bill to update Trump's war authority
© Greg Nash

Senators are renewing a long-stalled debate over President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela Ivanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California MORE's legal authority to target terrorist groups overseas. 

A bipartisan group of senators introduced the legislation to update the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) on Monday.

If passed, it would replace the 2001 and 2002 bills that authorized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and have been used as the legal basis for military action against terrorist groups.

"There have been a number of efforts over the years to update these authorities, and while there is still work ahead, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement on a product for the committee to consider," Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFreed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela Former US prisoner Josh Holt returns from Venezuela Hatch, Trump say American held in Venezuela returning to US MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

In addition to Corker, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineParent of middle school students amid shooting: ‘This happens in high school, not here’ Kaine demands answers on Pentagon missions in Africa Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization MORE (D-Va.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Overnight Energy: Reporters barred from Day 2 of EPA summit | Dems blame Trump for gas price increases | Massachusetts to get new offshore wind farm Jeff Flake: Trump has 'debased' the presidency MORE (R-Ariz.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senator: Trump Jr. may have given 'false testimony' about meeting with foreign nationals Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews Congress, Trump eye new agency to invest in projects overseas MORE (D-Del.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungDems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA International trade: Big business for small businesses MORE (R-Ind.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonPoll: 8 in 10 people in key states concerned about driverless cars Ted Cruz and Bill Nelson give NASA a reality check on privatizing International Space Station Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (D-Fla.) are supporting the bill.

Though the legislation comes days after President Trump launched "precision" military strikes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, the bill does not address the president's legal authority to take action against Syrian President Bashar Assad or any other nation-state.

It does specify that a sovereign nation would not qualify as an "associated force." 

In addition to repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, it allows Trump to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when and with who we are at war," Kaine added in a statement.

In a move that is likely to draw backlash from liberal lawmakers and outside groups, it would allow Trump to take action against an associated terrorist group or use military action in a new country without congressional authorization.

Trump would then need to notify Congress, who would under the legislation have 60 days to try to remove his authority to target the associated group or prohibit him from taking action in a specific country.

Corker told reporters that the legislation does not include a built-in sunset for the new AUMF.

Instead, it establishes a process whereby every four years a president must submit a proposal to Congress, which could then be fast-tracked through both chambers. If Congress doesn't pass new legislation, the Corker-Kaine war bill would stay in place.

Kaine said the Trump administration pushed back strongly against including a firm sunset in the bill. 

"That was strongly objected to by Secretary Mattis and others. They just felt like if you do that, you're sending a signal that you're going to leave and they'll wait you out," he said. 

He added the language in the final bill was a "middle ground" between the Democratic push for a firm sunset and Republican's push for no timeline. 

The legislation comes as Congress has struggled for years with passing a new war authorization amid deep political and policy divides.

Corker said he hopes the Foreign Relations Committee will mark up the legislation next week, as soon as Monday.

He noted earlier this year that he would like a week of floor time to debate the issue, if it can get passed his committee. But that could be a big ask heading into a midterm election, where leadership could be wary of starting debate of Trump's war authority.

"It is a political season. Everybody says they want to weigh in on an AUMF. We'll see if everybody really wants to weigh in an AUMF," Corker told reporters on Monday. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynRepublican leader: ‘For all practical purposes’ there’s no difference between an FBI informant and a spy Schumer: Congress must stop reported ZTE deal 'in its tracks' Hillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said late last week that he has not heard any discussion of giving the bill floor time. 

—Updated at 8:10 p.m.