ACTION ALERT: House Committee Votes to Repeal Act that Allows Presidents to Start Wars without Congressional Consent
June 30, 2017
AntiWar.com & The Hill & Rep. Barbara Lee
In a stunning move, the House Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment to the military spending bill that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. A succession of presidents have used the AUMF to launch numerous wars without having to obey the Constitution's fundamental principle that only Congress can declare war. Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have fired back, however, calling this attempt to return to "the rule of law" "out of order."
House Committee Votes to Repeal AUMF,
Ruled 'Out of Order'
Republican Leaders Argue Vote
Cripples Terror War, Shouldn't Count
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
WASHINGTON (June 29, 2017) -- In a stunning move, the House Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment to the massive military spending bill offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D – CA). The amendment, passed in a voice vote, and would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
Rep. Lee has long been pushing amendments and bills trying to end America's assorted wars. That one actually passed committee this time is nothing short of newsworthy, though the House Republican leadership was also quick to insist the vote doesn't actually count.
The 2001 AUMF authorizes the president to wage war on those directly involved in 9/11, the interpretation of which at this point is that the president can declare wars pretty much at will and this amounts to Congressional authorization for all of them.
This AUMF was used to justify the Afghan War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the re-invasion of Iraq after that first war ended, and the invasion of Syria both to fight against ISIS, and potentially to pick a fight with the Syrian government.
It was also presented as justification for the 2016 US intervention in Libya, though ironically not the US-led regime change war in Libya, which was itself "justified" by a vaguely worded UN resolution.
House Republicans are steaming about the Lee Amendment, insisting it cripples the legal basis for all of America's many, many wars, not just at present but in the future. They're going for a do-over on the amendment, insisting the vote was "out of order" and therefore didn't really count.
This argument is based on the House Foreign Affairs Committee arguing that they have "sole jurisdiction" over all AUMFs, and that it was therefore impossible for the Appropriations Committee to repeal it, like the vote did.
Rep. Lee's Amendment was [supported] by several House Republicans on the Committee, who argued that the US wars are "against an enemy that did not exist" back in 2001, and that it's time to repeal the old AUMF and pass a new, modern version.
Repeal-and replace-for the AUMF has been a cause embraced by many, but mostly shunned by the leadership, which has concerns that a new AUMF that's deliberately applicable to current wars might include explicit limits on the scope of those wars, infringing on the president's newfound power from the old AUMF to launch wars worldwide and totally unilaterally.
Foreign Affairs Say War
Authorization Amendment Was 'Out of Order'
Ellen Mitchell / The Hill
(June 29, 2017) -- The House Foreign Affairs Committee is crying foul over an amendment to a defense spending bill that would revoke the 2001 law giving the president authority to undertake war against terrorist threats.
"This provision should have been ruled out of order," GOP House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesman Cory Fritz said in a statement to The Hill.
The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday surprisingly approved the amendment -- introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) -- in a voice vote on Thursday.
The measure would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was initially approved to authorize the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It has since been used by the George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations to justify a number of military actions, including the Iraq War and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Under Lee's amendment, the authorization would be revoked eight months after the passing of the defense act, forcing Congress to vote on a new AUMF in the interim.
The Foreign Affairs Committee however, argues the provision violates the House's rules, suggesting it may be stripped from the bill.
"House Rules state that 'a provision changing existing law may not be reported in a general appropriation bill.' The Foreign Affairs Committee has sole jurisdiction over Authorizations for the Use of Military Force," Fritz said.
The remarks set up a potential battle between the two committees as the legislation moves forward.
Although only one lawmaker objected when the Lee language was added by voice vote to the defense bill, several Republican lawmakers have expressed their displeasure since that vote.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said he was "shocked and deeply troubled" by the amendment. "While I certainly support the passage of a new, unrestrictive Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), this amendment sends a devastating message to our allies and gives a vote of confidence to our enemies. I will regretfully oppose the Defense Appropriations Bill in its current form," he said in a statement.
Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), meanwhile, spoke out against the amendment before it was adopted.
"The amendment is a deal breaker and would tie the hands of the U.S. to act unilaterally or with partner nations with regard to al Qaeda and ... affiliated terrorism," she said. "It cripples our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations."
Lee has attempted for years to repeal the 2001 AUMF, but this is the first time Republicans have backed her attempt. Those who spoke in favor of the move included former Navy SEAL Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), and Air Force veteran Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah).
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services Chairman Tom Cole, (R-Okla.) also supported the amendment, arguing that the time is now for Congress to debate a new measure.
"We've had leadership on both sides that have put off this debate again and again and again," Cole said. "We're at war against an enemy that did not exist in a place that we did not expect to fight. How an AUMF that was passed 16 years ago -- before I was in Congress -- could possibly be stretched to cover this is just beyond belief to me."
Following the amendment's adoption, Lee told reporters she was sure there was no jurisdiction issue with such authorization language being added to the appropriations bill, but she will discuss it with leadership.
"We went and checked this out. We've been doing this every year. It's never been raised as a technical issue or jurisdiction issue so I'm confident we're going to move forward," Lee said.
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My Amendment Passed to Repeal the 2001 AUMF
Hon. Barbara Lee / US Congress
WASHINGTON (June 29, 2017) -- Earlier today, the House Appropriations Committee passed my amendment to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
This is a big deal. As you know, I was the lone vote back in 2001 when this overly broad war authorization was passed. I've been working to repeal it ever since, and today marks an enormous step forward in that effort.
The amendment would require Congress to finally do its job and hold a floor debate and vote on a new AUMF. If it is enacted, the 2001 AUMF would be repealed 240 days later.
Right now there is nothing more important to me than knowing I have you with me in this fight. With your help, we will show that there is broad support for my amendment.
This is about our country. This is about our brave service members. This is about Congress and our constitutional responsibility to do our jobs and authorize war.
Given the nature of the threats our country faces, it's past time for Republicans and Democrats to come together to support my amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF.
I voted against the 2001 AUMF because I knew it would provide a blank check to wage war anywhere, anytime, for any length by any president. I hope you'll join me today to demand that Congress take up this debate.
Thank you for being a part of this fight. It's been a long time coming, and we are showing what is possible when we keep at it.
Add your name to say you support my amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF that gives any president a blank check for endless war.