Corker says panel likely won't take up war authorization before 2018

Corker says panel likely won't take up war authorization before 2018
© Greg Nash

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday he does not expect his panel to take up a new war authorization before the end of the year, as he has previously said.

Corker said, however, that senators are making progress on a potential measure, including circulating five organizing principles about the war authorization for input from other lawmakers.

“We’ve got five principles that we’re circulating, and I’ve met with all the Republican members [of the committee], I’ve met with three of my Democratic counterparts and they’re socializing it with others,” Corker said.

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“And we likely will not have a markup the way things have worked out before the year end, but we’re developing language right now, and I think it’s a possibility that we could be successful,” he said.

The GOP chairman would not elaborate on the principles' specifics. But asked if sticking points include things that have tripped up efforts in the past, such as sunset dates and ground troops, he said “the standard things that you would expect to be discussed in an [authorization for the use of military force] are the same things."

"But I think, and we all agree with this, there are five organizing principles that we thought might bring us a majority of members on the committee," he added.

The Trump administration relies on the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) for legal authority in the war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as did the Obama administration.

The 2001 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 that 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 in 2001.

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

Still, efforts to secure a new AUMF appeared to pick up momentum in 2017.

After Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Watchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands MORE and Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPress: Acosta, latest to walk the plank A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats What is Trump's Iran end game? MORE testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the issue in October, Corker said his panel would mark up a bill “fairly soon.”

After a November hearing on nuclear weapons, Corker added that he “hope[s] that’s going to happen before the end of the year.”

The Foreign Relations Committee held another in the related series of hearings Wednesday, this time receiving testimony from former officials on strategy, legal and political considerations for using military force.

During the hearing, Corker said he hopes the committee is hitting the “sweet spot” on what an authorization should be, but highlighted the difficulty of crafting one for the war against terrorism.

“It's going to go on for a long, long time. We have no idea where it's going. We have no idea which countries, I mean, which entities are going to mutate out of this and so it makes it a little more difficult than saying, we're declaring war as we did in World War II, or some other place,” he said.

“So, again, I'm not trying to get us a bye here. I'm just saying [we have] to try to craft something that takes into account that this is activity that's going to take place in places we have even thought of today,” Corker said.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCan new US Strategy on Women, Peace & Security give women a real seat at the table? Ask Afghan women Maryland lawmakers slam 'despicable' Trump remark about journalists on newsroom shooting anniversary Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, responded that he thinks the president will have enough authority with whatever Congress passes.

“It seems to me that the overwhelming majority members of Congress want to support the use of our military to fight ISIS. We think that's an appropriate use. What we don't to see happen again is what happened in '01,” he said.

“If it becomes prolonged, he should seek the change from Congress. So I just point out, I don't think we have to be too concerned about not giving the president enough authority. Whatever we do, he'll have enough authority,” Cardin said.