Lawmakers applaud after panel approves language revoking war authority

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment that would revoke a 2001 law giving the president authority to undertake war against al Qaeda and its affiliates unless a replacement provision is created.

Lawmakers applauded when the amendment was added by voice vote to the defense spending bill, highlighting the frustration many members of Congress feel about the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was initially approved to authorize the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It has since been used to justify the Iraq War and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


Despite the applause, it is unclear whether it will make it past the Senate and be included in a final version of a defense spending bill. The amendment would revoke the 2001 AUMF after 240 days following the passing of the act, forcing Congress to vote on a new AUMF in the interim.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said the AUMF amendment "should have been ruled out of order" because the Appropriations panel does not have jurisdiction.

“House Rules state that ‘a provision changing existing law may not be reported in a general appropriation bill.’ The Foreign Affairs Committee has sole jurisdiction over Authorizations for the Use of Military Force,” said Cory Fritz, the Foreign Affairs panel's deputy staff director for communications.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the initial AUMF, introduced the amendment.

It would repeal “the overly broad 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force, after a period of 8 months after the enactment of this act, giving the administration and Congress sufficient time to decide what measures should replace it,” according to Lee.

That would give Congress a narrow window to approve a new AUMF, something lawmakers have struggled with for years. Efforts to move forward with a new AUMF have teetered with some members of Congress wanting to constrain the president's actions and others wanting to give the executive branch more leeway.

Lee said she initially voted against the AUMF because “I knew then it would provide a blank check to wage war anywhere, anytime, for any length by any president.”

House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairwoman Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHouse rejects GOP resolution condemning Pelosi for ripping up Trump's speech McCarthy to submit copy of Trump's SOTU address to House Clerk for archives The Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa MORE (R-Texas) was the lone lawmaker to oppose the amendment, arguing that it’s a policy issue that doesn’t belong in an appropriations bill.

The AUMF “is necessary to fight the global war on terrorism,” she said. “The amendment is a deal breaker and would tie the hands of the U.S. to act unilaterally or with partner nations with regard to al Qaeda and ... affiliated terrorism. It cripples our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) noted that Lee's argument had changed his mind.

“I was going to vote no, but we’re debating right now. I’m going to be with you on this and your tenacity has come through,” he said.

“You’re making converts all over the place, Mrs. Lee,” joked House Appropriations Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenEx-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Top House GOP appropriations staffer moves to lobbying shop MORE (R-N.J.).

The Congressional Research Service has found that the 2001 AUMF has been used more than 37 times in 14 countries to justify military action.

Lee last year offered a failed amendment that would have declared that no funds in the House bill could be used for the 2001 AUMF.