House panel rejects war authorization sunset it passed last year
The House Appropriations Committee rejected on party lines Wednesday an amendment to the defense spending bill that would have ended the 2001 war authorization, a year after the amendment surprisingly passed.
The committee voted 22-30 against the amendment, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), to sunset the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), which is still used as legal justification for military operations against terrorist groups.
“In the last 17 years, it has become increasingly clear that the AUMF has essentially provided the president, any president, the authority to wage war against any nation anywhere at time,” said Lee, who was the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF when it was passed in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
When Lee offered an identical amendment during last year’s markup of the defense appropriations bill, lawmakers applauded when it surprisingly passed by voice vote.
But House leadership then stripped the provision from the bill before it came to the floor, arguing that a spending bill is not the place to address the issue.
Lawmakers have been trying for years to replace the 2001 AUMF with one more tailored to today’s world, particularly the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The 2001 AUMF should not cover ISIS, they argue, because the group did not exist when it was passed.
But efforts to replace the 2001 AUMF have consistently faltered amid partisan divisions over whether to authorize ground troops and impose geographic and time limits.
Lee’s amendment would have sunsetted the 2001 AUMF in eight months, which she argued would provide enough time to write a new authorization.
Republicans, though, again argued the AUMF is outside the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee and that ending the current authorization without a new one ready to go could hamper military operations.
“This amendment is a deal breaker and would cripple our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations against terrorists who pose a threat to U.S. persons and interests,” defense appropriations subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) said. “Once again, the gentle lady intends to put a major policy change that does not belong in this bill.”
Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), who supported Lee’s amendment last year, said he does not think the spending bill is the correct place for the amendment, though he said still supports having an AUMF debate on the House floor.
“I supported it last year because I felt compelled to,” he said. “This conversation is needed now, and it’s needed on the floor. And it’s time for us to have the courage that those men and women who are in uniform have, and get up and debate this on the floor.”
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