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 SessionsTexas GOP rep predicts heavy Democratic presence in state ahead of 2020 Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - GOP snags mic with impeachment protest 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 CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R-Colo.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Lawmakers press for ICE reforms after fake school report Donald Trump Jr. writes about Trump family 'sacrifices' during trip to Arlington National Cemetery: book MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaProviding more information on the prescription drug supply chain will help lower costs for all Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill Mexican president urges Pelosi to get USMCA trade deal approved 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 BuckThe House must act now on USMCA to build on the ecomomy's success Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback With budget deal, Congress again fails to hold spending in check MORE (R-Colo.) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Speier to call on IG investigation into Navy chief's firing Nunes faces potential ethics review over alleged meeting with Ukrainian official 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 CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.) and committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine'Granite Express' flight to take staffers, journalists to NH after Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Senate panel approves Trump FDA pick | Biden downplays Dem enthusiasm around 'Medicare for All' | Trump officials unveil program for free HIV prevention drugs for uninsured Trump's FDA nominee approved by Senate panel 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.”