Afghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate

Afghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate
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As the Pentagon prepares to send another 1,000 military advisers to Afghanistan, several lawmakers have again taken up legislation that would give Congress more say in U.S. military decisions.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (R-Tenn.) said Thursday that his committee would soon debate and amend a bill for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF). Corker had previously promised the action in October.

“I will say that there’s a lot of progress being made on the AUMF, and I think we’re going to be in a place, really soon, to have a markup," Corker said at a hearing on the Trump administration’s strategy for Syria after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is defeated.

"We’re doing it in a way to engender support and input from members on both sides of the aisle."

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE's administration has continued to use a 2001 AUMF passed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to justify a range of military actions, including the fight against ISIS.

A handful of lawmakers want the language revoked for a more tailored war authorization bill, arguing the current AUMF has reached far beyond what it was meant to allow.

Efforts to replace the AUMF over the years have stalled, however, amid party divisions over issues such as how long the authorization should last, what terrorist groups should be included and whether ground troops should be allowed.

But with the Pentagon sending more drones, vehicles and new combat advisers to Afghanistan as soon as February, lawmakers are making another effort to reconcile divisions and push for a new AUMF.

“It should justify a debate, absolutely,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesExperts warn Georgia's new electronic voting machines vulnerable to potential intrusions, malfunctions Georgia restores 22,000 voter registrations after purge Stacey Abrams group files emergency motion to stop Georgia voting roll purge MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Jones, along with fellow committee member Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiPeace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field Overnight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with outbreak | Trump to expand use of defense law to build ventilators | Hospital ships receiving few patients Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak MORE (D-Calif.), co-authored a bill that would force a debate and vote in Congress on a new AUMF for Afghanistan. But that effort has been met by an unmoving House GOP leadership.

“The new announcement of another 1,000 troops may give us an opportunity to bring it back up,” Garamendi argued in a separate interview on Friday.

The authorization debate was kicked into high gear last June after Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick Barbara Lee: Congress should focus on eliminating poverty MORE (D-Calif.) sought to sunset the 2001 AUMF and force a debate and vote on what she called “perpetual” U.S. wars.

That effort was blocked the following month by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTwitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE (R-Wis.), who argued it was not right to end the current war authorization without a guaranteed replacement. But the move ignited a new argument on the issue.

“As far as I’m concerned, he has denied members of Congress their constitutional responsibility,” Jones said of Ryan. “We haven’t been able to get a policy debate on Afghanistan since 2001.”

The looming threat of North Korea and the October deaths of four U.S. service members in Niger — a country where many lawmakers were unaware the U.S. had active military operations — have only given air to calls for a new war authorization.

Jones expressed frustration at being unable to move his bill, which he and Garamendi sent to both the House Rules and Foreign Affairs committees.

The North Carolina Republican said he spoke last month to Rules Committee Chairman Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsTexas kicks off critical battle for House control The Hill's review of John Solomon's columns on Ukraine Tenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden MORE (R-Texas) about getting a hearing and would press him again in the next few weeks.

Jones and Garamendi have also explored putting together an unofficial hearing in February held by the minority party that would bring in veterans and constitutional lawyers to speak on the AUMF issue.

But Jones lamented that “it’s going to take the pressure of the American people, or some type of legal action” for their bill to move forward.

Garamendi said that lawmakers' best chance at getting a new AUMF might be when the next National Defense Authorization Act comes to the floor.

“There’s a higher probability of getting an amendment to be voted on on the floor of the House of Representatives. But again, last year we were precluded from doing that,” Garamendi said.

In the Senate, Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Twitter says Trump violates rules with 'shooting' threat MORE (D-Va.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake'Never Trump' Republicans: Fringe, or force to be reckoned with? The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? Former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake says he will not vote for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) have also proposed a new war authorization that would cover use of force only against certain extremist groups and would expire after five years. The White House would need to ask Congress to add additional groups.

Kaine told Defense News that negotiations to shore up their bill with Corker’s ideas are ongoing. Kaine also said he will reach out to House lawmakers about their proposals once senators work out a compromise.