Bipartisan lawmakers introduce new war authorization

Bipartisan lawmakers introduce new war authorization
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan quartet of House lawmakers has unveiled a new proposal for a war authorization to cover the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the latest in years of attempts to update the aging authorization used now.

“The threats we face today are far different than those we faced over a decade ago, and this legislation reflects Congress’s constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force against terrorist organizations,” Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanHouse Dems highlight promising new candidates Recognizing all who served our nation this Veterans Day House passes bill to expand mental health care for veterans MORE (R-Colo.) said in a statement Thursday.

Coffman introduced the new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) with Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.).

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The Trump administration relies on the 2001 AUMF passed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, for legal authority to prosecute the war against ISIS, as did the Obama administration before it.

Trump administration officials have told Congress that it is not seeking a new AUMF, but that it would not oppose Congress passing one.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisEric Trump: My father is 'not playing' on national security NSC to present Trump M deal to arm Ukraine against Russia Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town MORE has said a new authorization would show the military that Congress, and by extension the American people, support their mission.

“As far as the AUMF goes, my point is that we need the unity of the American government and with the Congress involved that brings the unity of the American people to this fight,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee this month.

Several lawmakers have tried for years to pass a new AUMF, but effort after effort has stalled amid deep party divisions over issues such as how long the authorization should last and whether ground troops should be allowed.

This year, though, efforts have appeared to pick up momentum. A House panel surprisingly adopted an amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF, though the provision was later stripped from the spending bill.

In September, the Senate voted against an amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF, though the amendment had stronger support than expected.

Under the AUMF introduced Thursday, operations against al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS would be authorized for five years. The 2001 AUMF would be repealed, as would the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War.

The president would also have to report to Congress 60 days after passage and every 90 days after that on any actions taken under the AUMF.

“For too long, Congress has allowed our armed forces to be used with ever more tenuous links to a vague and obsolete authorization of military force,” Gallego said in a statement. “This bill would refocus our efforts against terrorism and prevent the unauthorized use of our military against other countries or people.”

Bacon added that Congress must do the job of declaring war given to it in the Constitution.

“Article One of the Constitution bestows on Congress the authority to declare war and Congress needs to do its job,” Bacon said. “Our military must know it has the support of the American citizens we represent and that support is reflected by Congress debating and voting on the use of lethal military force.”