Corker promises panel will take up new war authorization 'fairly soon'

Corker promises panel will take up new war authorization 'fairly soon'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.) on Monday committed to marking up a new war authorization after Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing Overnight Defense: Judge says Trump can't implement transgender policy | Trump floats admitting Brazil to NATO | Mattis returning to Stanford MORE and Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February MORE testified before his committee on what they would want to see in it.

“The next step most logically is to attempt to move to a mark up and to actually try to pass an [authorization for the use of military force] out of committee,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Corker told reporters after the hearing with Mattis and Tillerson.

Asked when the mark up will be, Corker said he and ranking member Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council MORE (D-Md.) are discussing it, but predicted it will be “fairly soon.”

“We want to discuss what provisions are most likely to make it through, but fairly soon,” he said. “I don’t know why we would wait. We had a great hearing. We had a good classified briefing. We all know the subject matter. If we’re ever going to attempt to do this, I don’t know why we would wait beyond the next several weeks.”

Mattis and Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Trump administration believes it has the legal authority it needs to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But, they said, if Congress were to pass a new one they want it to meet certain conditions. It should not have geographical limitations, sunset after a few years or have operational restrictions such as a ban on ground troops, they said.

Asked whether the committee will follow Mattis's and Tillerson’s recommendations, Corker highlighted the AUMF proposal from Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP MORE (R-Ariz.). Their version would sunset after five years and require the administration to notify Congress if it sends troops to new countries not specifically named in the AUMF. It does not ban ground troops.

“I think they’ve done a pretty good job in laying that out,” Corker said of Kaine and Flake. “Members are going to want to express themselves, and Sen. Cardin and I are two members that are going to want to do that also. Again, I think that the only area to me that left somewhat of a debate was the associated forces issue and just whether an actual sunset versus reversing that out and giving Congress an ability to weigh in.”

The “associated forces” issue refers to what are considered associates of al Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban. Kaine and Flake’s bill defines it as any group that supports those three and is engaged in hostilities against the United States and requires congressional notification when the administration adds a group to the list.

During the hearing, Corker questioned the administration’s definition of associated forces.

“It does appear to be very broad and I would like — if it takes a classified response, we'll be glad to take it,” he said.

After the hearing, Kaine and Flake took issue with the administration’s objections to their proposal.

“We do think a notice and opportunity to disapprove the listing [of] associated forces and geographic expansion is very important, and we really view the five-year period not as a termination,” Kaine said. “A five-year sunset is not an arbitrary termination of U.S. action any more than a one-year [National Defense Authorization Act] is an arbitrary termination of U.S. support for the military. It’s just a time so that we can come back and make sure we’re reviewing so that this does not remain the forever war that it is now.”

Flake added that most senators have never weighed in on the AUMF.

“We would never expect an administration to concede that they need a new AUMF because that would be an admission that they shouldn’t have been doing what we’ve been doing in the last 16 years,” Flake said. “Not one senator on that panel was here in 2001 to vote on the original AUMF. Not one. Seven of us were in the House when it was voted on, but only 23 members of the Senate as it currently is voted on the 2001 AUMF. So, we need to weigh in.”