Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) this week introduced a somewhat ironic piece of legislation that would require the Obama administration to explain why it negotiated an Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan without any input from Congress.
Jones's legislation is particularly interesting because it is identical to a 2007 bill that Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPennsylvania GOP authorizes subpoenas in election probe We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Biden nominates ex-State Department official as Export-Import Bank leader MORE introduced along with President Obama, when they were both in the Senate, to question why President Bush announced a declaration of cooperation with Iraq without congressional approval. Jones's bill is identical to the Clinton-Obama bill except for dates, the countries involved, and the names of the specific agreements.
Use of the Clinton-Obama bill as a template for his Afghanistan bill serves as a blunt reminder that neither Clinton nor Obama were satisfied with the Bush administration's decision to ignore congressional input on Iraq, even though they made a similar decision when it came to Afghanistan. That reminder could help Jones make the case to his House colleagues that more oversight from Congress is needed.
But Jones told The Hill Thursday that regardless of who is in the White House, Congress needs to exert more authority over these issues in general.
"Congress for too long has not injected itself to be part of the process," Jones said by phone. "Congress needs to be able to evaluate whether this security agreement is worth the taxpayers' investment."
Jones's current complaint is the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement that President Obama announced he reached with Afghanistan earlier this month. His bill, H.R. 5787, says that agreements fails to outline the extent and cost of the U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan, and that because Congress will have to fund that commitment, Congress should be involved.
"Congress is a co-equal branch of government and as such the extension of long-term United States security commitments to Afghanistan that obligates or requires the appropriation of United States funds requires the full participation and consent of Congress," his bill says.
In 2007, the Clinton-Obama bill read, "Congress is a co-equal branch of government and as such the extension of long-term United States security commitments to Iraq that obligates or requires the appropriation of United States funds requires the full participation and consent of Congress."
Jones's bill, like the Clinton-Obama bill, requires that within 60 days of passage, the State Department submit a report to Congress that justifies the administration's decision to conclude the agreement without consulting Congress. It would require the administration to include a legal analysis on this decision.
The bill also includes a sense of Congress saying the Afghanistan agreement does not have the force of law, and would prohibit the authorization or appropriation of funds to carry out any agreement that is not approved by Congress.