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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 SessionsElection Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Vulnerable Republicans throw ‘Hail Mary’ on pre-existing conditions Marijuana and the midterms 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 CoffmanGroup begins 'Nuns on the Bus' tour to protest Trump tax law ahead of midterms Election Countdown: Dems raising millions in fight for House | Trump attacks potential challengers | GOP finalizes 2020 convention plans | Dems see Kavanaugh fight driving women voters to the polls | Bloomberg spending big for Senate Dems GOP sacrifices women and House Republicans with Kavanaugh plan MORE (R-Colo.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoICE awarded 5M deal to defense contractor under review for holding migrant kids in vacant office: report Hispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors Analysis: 77 percent of small firms in Puerto Rico suffered hurricane losses MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaOvernight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Lawmakers introduce resolution to back naming NATO headquarters after McCain Overnight Defense: 7B defense policy bill speeding toward finish line | Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over American pastor | Senators offer bills to defend NATO ties 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 BuckLawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization House conservatives to air grievances in new 'Swamp' docu-series America has a broken political system our leaders need to fix MORE (R-Colo.) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierFemale House Dems urge Senate to delay Kavanaugh testimony for FBI investigation Election Countdown: Kavanaugh allegations put GOP in tough spot | Republicans start to pull plug on candidates | Dems get early start in Iowa | O'Rourke defends Cruz after protesters interrupt dinner | Why Biden is the Democrat GOP most fears Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage 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 CorkerSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Dem Senator: Congress will act on death of Saudi journalist Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist MORE (R-Tenn.) and committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms 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.”