New AUMF Debate in Congress

FPA Statement on the New AUMF Debate in Congress

April 2018

Recent news reports indicate that there is a proposal in the Senate co-sponsored by Senators Corker (R-Tennessee) and Kaine (D-Virginia) to establish a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would replace the 2001 and 2002 AUMF under which Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump used to justify continued U.S. military operations in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere.

The terms of this authorization are as yet unspecified but early indications are that it would give the President broad latitude to continue military operations under the guise of the “global war on terror”.  According to the Washington Post, the new proposal would give a green light to the executive branch, “to use all necessary and appropriate force against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and designated associated forces.” However, it appears that it does not cover operations against nation-states, such as recent strikes against targets in Syria justified in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack. The new legislation stipulates that the president must notify Congress about any new forces he designates as falling under the auspices of the AUMF within 48 hours of engaging them in hostilities. Congress would then have a 60-day window to object (by a supermajority vote) — or, if they miss that window, tacitly approve the designation. The details of the proposal are still uncertain however, there are some indications that Congress will not impose a time limit on the authorization an omission that could lead to a perpetual state of war.

Given the initial reactions from many in Congress applauding the recent missile attacks on Syria without either an AUMF or a UN Resolution to establish a legal framework for the actions it is important that a full and transparent debate be held to include public hearings from relevant stakeholders. It is vital to avoid having Congress give the President a blank check to continue the perpetual war.  We have to have more with which to justify the sacrifice in blood and treasure the American people have endured over the years than weak assurances that the war is in the “vital interest” of the United States. We need a clearly articulated statement of just what those vital interests are and an opportunity to challenge those statements on merit. A mere declaration by the President after the fact is not what the framers intended in granting Congress the power to make war.

We call on our elected representatives to immediately assert their constitutional authority and withhold funding for military operations until the issue has been thoroughly debated by Congress in full view of the American people.

Foreign Policy Alliance

Bob Henschen, Eric C. Botts, Allan Vogel, Jeff Larson, Joe Marcinkowski