House lawmakers renew push for war authorization

House lawmakers renew push for war authorization
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan quartet of congressmen is pushing their House colleagues to support their effort for a new war authorization to fight terrorism, framing theirs as a “more robust” version than was recently introduced in the Senate.

“Given the recent and ongoing military operations in which the U.S. is involved in the Middle East, we believe it is long past time for Congress to revisit this important issue,” the lawmakers wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated Tuesday to gain support for their authorization of the use of military force (AUMF).

“As you may know, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator [Bob] Corker [R-Tenn.], recently introduced his bipartisan AUMF. Senator Corker’s proposal shares many similarities with our AUMF. … Our resolution, however, is more robust as it is time limited and includes more extensive reporting requirements.”

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The letter was organized by Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.) and co-signed by Reps. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoOvernight Defense: Trump's move to use military in US sparks backlash | Defense officials take heat | Air Force head calls Floyd's death 'a national tragedy' Democrats blast Trump's use of military against protests Overnight Defense: Esper, Milley part of 'command center' for response to protests over George Floyd killing | Several West Point cadets test positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump commencement speech | UN report says Taliban, al Qaeda not breaking ties MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump turns to lawmakers to advise on reopening Trump taps members of Congress to advise on reopening Lawmakers cry foul as Trump considers retreating from Open Skies Treaty MORE (D-Calif.).

Last year, the quartet introduced an AUMF  that would authorize operations against al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and associated persons other than a sovereign nation. The authorization would end after five years.

The president would also have to submit a report to Congress every 90 days on actions taken under the AUMF.

The resolution would also repeal the 2001 AUMF passed after the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War.

“Congress needs to reassert its constitutional duty to authorize the use of military force around the globe rather than let the executive branch unilaterally make such important decisions,” they wrote in their Tuesday letter. “We can do so by adopting [this resolution].”

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Earlier this month, Corker and Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocratic senators kneel during moment of silence for George Floyd Overnight Defense: Trump's move to use military in US sparks backlash | Defense officials take heat | Air Force head calls Floyd's death 'a national tragedy' Pentagon: Esper, Milley 'not aware' of Trump's church photo-op ahead of time MORE (D-Va.) introduced an AUMF that would authorize "all necessary and appropriate" force against al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and "associated forces.”

The Corker-Kaine bill would also require the president to notify Congress 48 hours after striking a new associated force or using military action in a new country. It would give Congress a 60-day window to block further military action against that group or in that country.

The bill would also establish a process for reviewing the AUMF every four years without sunsetting the authorization in an effort to address administration concerns that a sunset date telegraphs a timeline to adversaries.

In an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, Coffman argued having the AUMF expire is the only way to ensure continued debate on the issue.

“Merely having a quadrennial review that’s required in the Senate version, to me it’s kind of a dodge. It doesn’t force a debate, and I think you have to force a debate,” said Coffman, who is facing a tough reelection bid this year. “I just think it’s important to reflect on the Constitution and I think that over time, the war powers of Congress have eroded in favor of the executive branch, and I think it’s important to have that balance, and I don’t think that in any way sacrifices national security.”

Coffman put the chances of their AUMF moving forward in the House at 50-50, saying he needs to speak with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceGil Cisneros to face Young Kim in rematch of 2018 House race in California The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE (R-Calif.) again after discussing the issue with him “a little while ago.” 

“I think the environment is better now to have it heard,” Coffman said. “I think the fact is that you have the chairman leaving the Congress, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and I would hope his legacy would not want to be that he never … updated the AUMF.”