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 SessionsGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote House GOP blocks lawmakers from forcing Yemen war votes for rest of year Advocates see state legislatures as next frontier for pot legalization 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 CoffmanGardner gets first Dem challenger for 2020 Senate race The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020 10 things we learned from the midterms MORE (R-Colo.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHispanic Caucus picks Castro as its next chair We all must speak up to protect our national monuments Dem rep: Trump is ‘scared’ of House Democratic oversight MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaDemocrats with military background offer support for Pelosi Overnight 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 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 BuckOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Mattis defends border deployment during visit to troops | Bolton aide exits WH after clash with first lady | House blocks Yemen war resolution | Report warns of erosion in US military superiority Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization House conservatives to air grievances in new 'Swamp' docu-series MORE (R-Colo.) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierCongress strikes deal on bill for sexual harassment cases involving lawmakers Dem lawmaker: Trump Jr. lied to Congress on two occasions House Dems plan to re-interview witnesses from Russia probe 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 CorkerOvernight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Senate passes resolution naming crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) and committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTim Kaine: Trump was 'fact-checked to his face' by Pelosi, Schumer While G-20 Summit was promising for US- China trade relations, Congress must still push for an exclusion process Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails 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.”