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 House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown 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 CoffmanTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Gardner, Portman endorse Trump for 2020 MORE (R-Colo.), Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE (D-Ariz.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaBipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals House passes bill expressing support for NATO This week: Congress heading in opposite directions on shutdown plans 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 BuckGOP lawmakers offer several locations for Trump address To win on anti-corruption, Democrats need to change the game plan The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall MORE (R-Colo.) and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Joe Kennedy introduces resolution rejecting Trump’s transgender military ban Overnight Defense: Gillibrand offers bill to let transgender troops serve | Pentagon ready to protect US personnel in Venezuela | Dems revive fight with Trump over Saudis 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 CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) and committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall Clinton on GOP promoting Trump 'stronger together' quote: Now copy my policies too 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.”