Senate panel announces public war authorization hearing with Mattis, Tillerson

Senate panel announces public war authorization hearing with Mattis, Tillerson
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month will hear from Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE and Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE in a public hearing on authorizations for the use of military force — another sign of the growing momentum on Capitol Hill for updating the 16-year-old war authorization.

The committee announced Friday that Mattis and Tillerson will testify the evening of October 30.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia Democrats look for plan B on filibuster GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill MORE (D-Va.), a Foreign Relations Committee member who has long advocated for a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), applauded the announcement of the Mattis and Tillerson hearing.

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“The many questions surrounding the death of American servicemembers in Niger show the urgent need to have a public discussion about the current extent of our military operations around the world,” he said in a statement Friday. “For sixteen years, Congress has remained largely silent on this issue, allowing administrations to go to war anywhere, anytime.

“A new AUMF is not only legally necessary, it would also send an important message of resolve to the American public and our troops that we stand behind them in their mission.”

The pair has previously briefed the committee on the issue behind closed doors and has been asked questions about the issue in broader public hearings.

But the upcoming hearing is their first public one dedicated to the issue of war authorizations.

The Trump administration relies on the 2001 AUMF for legal authority in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as did the Obama administration before it.

The AUMF authorized military actions against al Qaeda, the Taliban and other perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Proponents of using it against ISIS argue the terrorist group grew out of al Qaeda, while opponents highlight the two groups’ public falling out as well as the fact the ISIS did not exist when the authorization was issued.

Trump administration officials have told Congress that it is not seeking a new AUMF, but that it would not oppose Congress passing one.

Mattis has said a new authorization would show the military that Congress, and by extension the American people, support their mission.

“As far as the AUMF goes, my point is that we need the unity of the American government, and with the Congress involved that brings the unity of the American people to this fight,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

Several lawmakers have tried for years to pass a new AUMF, but effort after effort has stalled amid deep party divisions over issues such as how long the authorization should last and whether ground troops should be allowed.

This year, though, efforts have appeared to pick up momentum. A House panel surprisingly adopted an amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF, though the provision was later stripped from the spending bill.

In September, the Senate voted against an amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF, though the amendment had stronger support than expected.