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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 TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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.

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"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 CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

In addition to Corker, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Biden administration to give Congress full classified briefing on Syria strikes by next week Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence MORE (D-Va.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (R-Ariz.), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill MORE (D-Del.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Republican 2024 hopefuls draw early battle lines for post-Trump era MORE (R-Ind.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display Florida Democrats mired in division, debt ahead of 2022 Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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).

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"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 CornynPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees Biden pledges support for Texas amid recovery from winter storm Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission 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.