A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a new congressional war authorization that would replace the 9/11-era legislation the US government has used to justify the global war on terror for more than 16 years.
Six senators, led by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat on the committee, revealed the full text of the proposal on Monday evening, just days after President Donald Trump authorized a missile strike in Syria.
The new authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, would replace two previous ones: a 2001 AUMF that Congress passed in the days after the attack on the World Trade Center to go after the perpetrators and a 2002 AUMF used to justify the Iraq War.
Both Republican and Democratic critics have argued that the 2001 AUMF, which allows the US to fight those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks, is overly broad and has been used by multiple administrations as a blank check to wage war against a host of enemies without Congress’s approval.
The new AUMF would authorize military action against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and “designated associated forces.” A list of existing associated forces is included in the proposal, but under the new authorization, the president could add to that list by notifying Congress. However, the president would need to do so within two days of taking military action against any new group or in a new country.
“We’ve let the 9/11 and Iraq War authorizations get stretched to justify wars against multiple terrorist groups in over a dozen countries, from Niger to the Philippines. Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war,” Kaine said in a statement Monday.
The new AUMF would replace the old ones 120 days after the president signs it. It does not include authorization for military action against nation-states; in other words, it would not cover strikes against Syrian government like those the US undertook on Friday.
The proposal would also establish an expedited process through which Congress, starting in 2022, would review the AUMF and potentially change or repeal it. Under that process, every four years, the president would need to send Congress a report with “a proposal to repeal, modify, or leave in place” the authorization.
The Foreign Relations Committee — which, along with its House counterpart, is typically responsible for updating war authorizations — has been working on drafting a new AUMF since last year, holding two hearings on the issue. Kaine and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican member of the committee, released a new AUMF proposal last May, but it failed to make its way through the committee.
In addition to Corker and Kaine, the new bill is sponsored by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons and Bill Nelson as well as Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Todd Young.
Corker told reporters on Monday that he hopes to hold a markup for the proposal next week but declined to say whether he’s concerned that Republican leadership might not allow the bill to go to the Senate floor for a full vote. "My first goal is to move something out of committee, so I don't really worry about much beyond having a successful vote in the committee, which has been difficult for years,” he said.
After years of disagreement that have prevented Congress from passing a new AUMF, senators said Monday’s version of the bill is a compromise.
"While the AUMF released just now by Sens. Kaine and Corker is not my ideal version, it is a credible bipartisan version,” Coons told reporters. “I am joining it as an original cosponsor and those who would criticize it have to show some alternative path towards restoring some of Congress's role in authorizing conflict."
Unlike the proposal introduced by Flake and Kaine last year, the new AUMF does not include a sunset provision that would force it to expire after a set amount of time if it isn’t renewed by Congress. Some in the administration had opposed the sunset language, and on Monday, Corker called it “a nonstarter” that “would not pass.”
If the proposed AUMF passes the Senate, it will also need to pass the House and get President Donald Trump's signature before becoming law.