Foreign Affairs say war authorization amendment was 'out of order'

Foreign Affairs say war authorization amendment was 'out of order'
© Greg Nash

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is crying foul over an amendment to a defense spending bill that would revoke the 2001 law giving the president authority to undertake war against terrorist threats.

“This provision should have been ruled out of order,” GOP House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesman Cory Fritz said in a statement to The Hill. 

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday surprisingly approved the amendment — introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) — in a voice vote on Thursday.

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The measure would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was initially approved to authorize the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It has since been used by the George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations to justify a number of military actions, including the Iraq War and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

Under Lee’s amendment, the authorization would be revoked eight months after the passing of the defense act, forcing Congress to vote on a new AUMF in the interim.

The Foreign Affairs Committee however, argues the provision violates the House’s rules, suggesting it may be stripped from the bill.

“House Rules state that ‘a provision changing existing law may not be reported in a general appropriation bill.’ The Foreign Affairs Committee has sole jurisdiction over Authorizations for the Use of Military Force,” Fritz said.

The remarks set up a potential battle between the two committees as the legislation moves forward.

Although only one lawmaker objected when the Lee language was added by voice vote to the defense bill, several Republican lawmakers have expressed their displeasure since that vote.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said he was “shocked and deeply troubled” by the amendment.

“While I certainly support the passage of a new, unrestrictive Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), this amendment sends a devastating message to our allies and gives a vote of confidence to our enemies.  I will regretfully oppose the Defense Appropriations Bill in its current form,” he said in a statement. 

Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), meanwhile, spoke out against the amendment before it was adopted.

“The amendment is a deal breaker and would tie the hands of the U.S. to act unilaterally or with partner nations with regard to al Qaeda and ... affiliated terrorism,” she said. “It cripples our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations.”

Lee has attempted for years to repeal the 2001 AUMF, but this is the first time Republicans have backed her attempt.

Those who spoke in favor of the move included former Navy SEAL Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), and Air Force veteran Rep. Chris StewartChris StewartGOP rep would ‘recommend’ not paying much attention to Trump tweets California Democrat seeks to win fight on war powers Surprise war vote points to shift in GOP MORE (R-Utah).

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services Chairman Tom Cole, (R-Okla.) also supported the amendment, arguing that the time is now for Congress to debate a new measure.

“We’ve had leadership on both sides that have put off this debate again and again and again,” Cole said.

“We’re at war against an enemy that did not exist in a place that we did not expect to fight. How an AUMF that was passed 16 years ago — before I was in Congress — could possibly be stretched to cover this is just beyond belief to me.”

Following the amendment's adoption, Lee told reporters she was sure there was no jurisdiction issue with such authorization language being added to the appropriations bill, but she will discuss it with leadership.

"We went and checked this out. We've been doing this every year. It's never been raised as a technical issue or jurisdiction issue so I'm confident we're going to move forward," Lee said.