House Democrats seeking compromise on AUMF

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Some Democrats are signaling they may be ready to work on a compromise with Republicans on legislation authorizing the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill he will introduce a new proposal within the coming days that would not prohibit using ground troops in combat but would require a vote should the president want to use them.

{mosads}”We’re still working out details,” Engel said on Thursday. “Certainly we don’t want to tie the president’s hands if there’s a rescue or an emergency.”

The issue of ground forces in combat has been one of the top sticking points between Republicans and Democrats. It’s not clear how many Democrats would back Engel’s proposal — particularly progressive Democrats who oppose the idea of U.S. troops in ground combat entirely. 

The proposal by the hawkish Engel goes beyond the White House proposal sent to Congress last February, which did not authorize the use of troops in “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” 

Republicans opposed the language, arguing it could tie military commanders’ hands, and Democrats feared it was not restrictive enough to prevent another open-ended, large-scale ground war in the Middle East.

Engel’s proposal comes after Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asked Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and others to begin discussing with Republican members of their committees what kind of measure they would support.

Royce has scheduled three listening sessions over the next couple of weeks, with the first one held on Thursday, as first reported by The Hill. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is advocating an even less restrictive proposal.

His proposed authorization for use of miltary force (AUMF) would not ban the use of ground troops in combat, but would allow any member to call for a vote to repeal or revise the authorization if the president should decide to use them. 

He acknowledged that progressive Democrats do not support using ground troops in combat but said his proposal would contain items supported by both parties. 

“Conservatives will applaud the fact there’s no limit on ground troops, and that it authorizes force against al Qaeda, [ISIS] and the Taliban. Democrats can applaud the fact that the authorization will be sunset in three years, and that there’s a privileged motion to vote on any introduction of troops,” he said of his proposal. 

Schiff’s last proposal would not have authorized the use of ground forces in combat. 

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, remained more skeptical of a bipartisan deal.

“As I said before, there’s a lot of anxiety on my side of the aisle about the president, whether he really wants to beat ISIS or not. And so you’re asking people to authorize the use of military force when they don’t have confidence in the commander in chief and whether he’s all in on the mission, and that makes it hard,” he said on Thursday. 

“But that’s why we’re going to listen and talk and try some things out,” he added.

Schiff, who has been one of the earliest advocates for passing a new AUMF for the war against ISIS, said he is encouraged by what he says is now considerable interest in moving forward.  

“Anything that tries to bridge the gap between the two parties is going to be a challenge,” he said.

But, he said, “I’m very encouraged that a window has opened, and they’re moving forward with this. … There’s really a deep interest in moving forward and that’s very positive. I hope the president will address it in his speech next week.”

Reps. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have also introduced AUMF proposals. 

Tags Adam Schiff Bill Nelson Jeff Flake Lindsey Graham Paul Ryan Peter Welch Scott Rigell Tim Kaine
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