Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization

Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is pushing to get a vote on the House floor this week for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF).

The handful of lawmakers sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Rules Committee, Reps. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Lawmaker sees political payback in fight over 'deepfakes' measure | Tech giants to testify at hearing on 'censorship' claims | Google pulls the plug on AI council Lawmaker alleges political payback in failed 'deepfakes' measure As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges MORE (R-Texas) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), calling for the vote as part of this week’s debate on the annual defense bill.

“As you consider amendments for the House’s debate on this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we urge you to allow debate and a vote on our amendment to replace the two current Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) with an updated one,” the lawmakers wrote in letter dated Monday and released Tuesday.

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The letter was signed by Reps. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard Coffman20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-Colo.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoLawsuit accuses anti-immigrant groups of harassing churches that aid migrants Lawsuit accuses anti-immigrant groups of harassing churches that aid migrants Overnight Defense: Latest on USS McCain controversy | Trump says order was 'well-meaning' | Shanahan asks chief to investigate | Democrat demands answers from Navy | Trump touts military strength in Air Force Academy speech MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaPolitical world mourns death of Doris Day Lawmakers pressed to fix tax law glitch Dems set to debate Trump impeachment in post-Mueller era MORE (D-Calif.).

The quartet introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, replacing them with a measure authorizing military 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 amendment is identical to a stand-alone resolution the lawmakers introduced last year that has seen no movement in Congress. The group tried to drum up support for their effort in April with a “Dear Colleague” letter. A spokesman for Coffman said the bill gained two co-sponsors after the letter, Reps. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckWoman accuses top US cardinal of mishandling church sexual abuse case Woman accuses top US cardinal of mishandling church sexual abuse case 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill MORE (R-Colo.) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy | Trump, Macron downplay rift on Iran | Trump mourns West Point cadet's death in accident | Pentagon closes review of deadly Niger ambush Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: 'You are the pride of our nation' MORE (D-Calif.).

The Trump administration relies on the 2001 AUMF passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for legal authority to prosecute the war against ISIS, as did the Obama administration previously.

In recent years, Congress has had fits and spurts of trying to replace the 2001 AUMF — as well as the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War — with one more tailored to the ISIS fight. But efforts have consistently stalled amid partisan battles over issues such as when to sunset the authorization.

Most recently, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been debating an AUMF introduced by committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) and committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTexas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Texas raises age to purchase tobacco to 21 Democrats push to make national security a 2020 wedge issue MORE (D-Va.). But it’s unclear whether that will be more successful as senators appear divided on whether it provides too much power to the executive branch.

In the House, Coffman, Gallego, Bacon and Panetta’s AUMF is one of several attempting to repeal, replace or touch on concerns about the 2001 and 2002 authorizations that have been introduced as amendments to the NDAA.

The House Rules Committee decides which amendments make it to the House floor for a vote and in previous years typically has not advanced AUMFs that were introduced as amendments to the NDAA.

In their letter this week though, the bipartisan group of House lawmakers argued the NDAA is a “particularly appropriate” place to debate a new AUMF.

“Matching defense authorization for critical national security missions with the scope and boundaries provided by a new AUMF just makes sense,” they wrote. “Our bipartisan measure also is important for the men and women in our Armed Forces. A current AUMF lets them know that their continued actions and operations are within the bounds set by the legislative branch of our government.”