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 TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

In addition to Corker, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Va.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBottom line Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package MORE (D-Del.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (R-Ind.) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTom Brady to Biden: '40 percent of the people still don't think we won' Rubio, Demings rake in cash as Florida Senate race heats up How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation 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).

"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.

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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 CornynSenate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Eight Republicans join Democrats to confirm head of DOJ environmental division 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.