In a rare bipartisan effort, a House committee has taken important steps toward rolling back the president’s authority to wage endless war.
The House Appropriations Committee voted Thursday in favor of an amendment that would rescind the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a bill that was first approved shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The AUMF allowed the president to wage war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates without Congressional approval.
Since then, the AUMF has been used to justify military action in Iraq and Syria. But a new amendment to the AUMF will automatically revoke it after 240 days. If the Senate votes to include the amendment in the final version of the annual defense spending bill, the AUMF will expire next year.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D.-Calif.) introduced the amendment. The only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF when it was initially approved in 2001, Lee said her amendment would:
“[Repeal] the overly broad 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force, after a period of 8 months after the enactment of this act, giving the administration and Congress sufficient time to decide what measures should replace it.”
The move follows President Donald Trump’s continued military intervention in Syria and Afghanistan. After the U.S. military shot down a fighter jet in Syria last month, the president faced increased pressure to scale back American intervention there and/or put forth a comprehensive plan for future engagement. As CNN reported ahead of the House vote:
“Democrats and some key Republicans say they’re alarmed that President Donald Trump has delegated the decision to set troop levels in Afghanistan to his defense secretary, James Mattis, particularly when the administration has yet to outline its larger strategy for the longest war in US history.”
Lee was conscious of the impact the AUMF could have in Trump’s hands, saying:
“This issue is more urgent given the erratic behavior and inexperience of our current Commander-in-Chief. No president should have a blank check for endless war, least of all President Donald Trump.”
The committee passed the amendment with only a single opposing vote, that of Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas). But despite the bipartisan efforts of the House Appropriations Committee, the amendment faces significant opposition. The House Foreign Affairs Committee suggested that the Appropriations Committee does not have jurisdiction to introduce such an amendment.
The Senate, too, has reason to oppose the amendment. According to the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. But if they were forced to actually take a position on military intervention, both the House and Senate would open themselves up to blame if the mission went awry. The AUMF allows Congress to keep its distance from America’s military actions by placing responsibility squarely on the president’s shoulders.
Watch this video to see more about Rep. Lee’s amendment (after the jump):
Featured image via YouTube.