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 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.) 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 TrumpCummings says Ivanka Trump not preserving all official communications Property is a fundamental right that is now being threatened 25 states could see severe flooding in coming weeks, scientists say 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 JonesNorth Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race House pays tribute to Walter Jones GOP leader presses Trump to agree to border deal MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

Jones, along with fellow committee member Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiTrump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight House Dems demand Pentagon provide details about plans to fund Trump border wall Dem lawmaker: 'The president has it in for California' 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 LeeHarris receives endorsement from 6 home-state mayors Dems put spotlight on diversity in tech Hillicon Valley: T-Mobile, Sprint racked up Trump hotel bills | Progressives find fresh target in telecom merger | Lawmakers divided over state privacy rules | FCC warns of future probe into Sinclair allegations 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 RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down 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 SessionsAs Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary' 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 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.) 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.