Senators introduce new war authorization bill without expiration date

Just days after President Trump ordered airstrikes against suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities, two U.S. senators introduced legislation to replace previous authorizations for the use of military force from 2001 and 2002.

The aim of the new AUMF, according to its authors, is to provide “an updated, transparent, and sustainable statutory basis for counter-terrorism operations.”

Co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), the bill would grant the White House broad authority to conduct attacks against terror groups and would permit Trump to authorize military action against enemies in other parts of the globe if required.

The bill, however, does provide a new framework under which the president must guide the military, provides more transparency in the use of force and involves Congress in more decision making for military action.

Under the terms of the proposed legislation, the president is subject to a congressional review over the use of military force every four years in which the executive can propose to repeal or modify the authority.

The new AUMF would also require the White House to notify Congress within 48 hours if any use of force is expanded beyond the Middle East where the U.S. is currently engaged. The motion states any proposed modification or repeal of the authority unopposed by Congress within 60 days will stand.

“There have been a number of efforts over the years to update these authorities, and while there is still work ahead, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement on a product for the committee to consider and that I hope will ultimately strike an appropriate balance of ensuring the administration has the flexibility necessary to win this fight while strengthening the rightful and necessary role of Congress,” Corker said when unveiling the bill. 

Despite unfurling a bill which appears to be an attractive alternative to members on both side of the political divide, some lawmakers were concerned with the absence of an expiration date, which Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says “gives nearly unlimited power to this or any President to be at war anywhere, anytime and against anyone, with minimal justification and no prior specific authority.”

In a similar fashion, describing his reservations over the lack of “sunsets” in the proposal, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said:

“(This bill) changes the nature of Congress declaring war, which is what the Constitution says, versus nullifying it after something happens, which I understand was part of their language.”

Expressing skepticism over the proposal under consideration in Congress, a National Security Council aide said President Trump’s war powers are “sufficient.”  Commenting shortly after, a second administration official stated the White House had not taken a position on the bill.

 

[Roll Call] [The Hill] [Antiwar.com] [Photo courtesy Business Insider]