Bipartisan push grows for new war authorization

Bipartisan push grows for new war authorization
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Pressure is growing on GOP leaders to have Congress authorize ongoing military operations in the Middle East. 

Dozens of House lawmakers, representing both parties, sent a letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) on Friday urging him to debate a new resolution providing authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in Syria and other terrorist hotspots.

Led by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the lawmakers say Congress is ducking its constitutional responsibility to provide the Pentagon with the green light to continue fighting Syrian forces and terrorists aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

“[President Trump] must seek approval from Congress before taking any further military action against the Syrian regime of [President] Bashar al-Assad,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you know, we represent a diverse group of political views, but on this matter we are united. 

“We believe that Congress has an important role to play, and based on current events, such a debate should occur as soon as possible.”

Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) also helped spearhead the letter, which was endorsed by 46 House lawmakers. Most are Democrats, but a handful of Republicans are joining the push. Aside from Cole and Jones, the list includes GOP Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Paul GosarPaul GosarHouse conservatives: Rove's criticism 'wrong and misguided' House votes to block funding for EPA methane pollution rule McCain needs to start showing my constituents more respect MORE (Ariz.), Ted YohoTed YohoDem lawmaker renews push for infrastructure, tax package Savings through success in foreign assistance GOP rep: I would have met with Russians for opposition research MORE (Fla.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashWatchdog: Haley violated federal law by retweeting Trump endorsement House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties GOP lawmaker taunts House conservatives: Trump’s base is not ‘small faction of obstructionists’ MORE (Mich.).

Ryan has signaled a recent openness to debate a new AUMF. After Trump fired scores of missiles at a Syrian air base last month — a strike initiated in response to chemical attacks on civilians — the Speaker’s office said that, while the president was within his authority to launch that strike, the administration should confer with Congress before escalating the fight.

“It is now appropriate for the administration to consult with Congress as it considers next steps to resolve the long-running crisis in Syria,” a Ryan spokeswoman said at the time.

But Ryan refused the Democrats’ entreaties to cut short Congress’s spring recess to launch the AUMF debate, and the issue has been put on the back burner this week, when returning lawmakers focused much of their energy on legislation to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.

But ignoring the AUMF issue cannot be an option, the bipartisan group wrote to Ryan. The lawmakers argue that the current use-of-force resolution, passed in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks, is outdated and no longer applies to a fight that’s expanded geographically and targets a different enemy.

“For too long, the United States has conducted military operations against the Islamic State under the justification of the outdated 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The U.S. has steadily escalated its role and military presence against the Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq, including additional deployments over the past two months. It is past time for the House to debate and vote on an AUMF that defines the purpose, nature and limits of U.S. military engagement against the Islamic State,” they wrote.

“Congress cannot continue to remain silent and ignore its responsibilities under the Constitution,” they added. “Engaging in these debates is the minimum we owe the American people and our brave men and women in uniform.”

Ryan’s office did not respond Friday to a request for comment.