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Democrats To Take Fight Over War Authority To The Next Congress

"We will complete the job. Not as quickly as I would like, but we will complete it."

Posted on December 11, 2014, at 6:03 p.m. ET

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations committee passed an authorization for the use of military force to fight ISIS Thursday, but the fate of a final AUMF will remain in limbo until Congress comes back in January.

The AUMF draft written by Chairman Bob Menendez included language to put a three-year timeline on the authorization and prohibits putting boots on the ground.

The bill passed along a party line vote, and it is highly unlikely a full senate vote will happen before the end of the lame-duck session of Congress. But Republican members, including soon-to-be Chairman of the Committee Bob Corker, were insistent the debate would continue in the next congress.

Even though Congress will likely adjourn without passing a full authorization, committee Democrats seemed satisfied that they had at least come this far. Sen. Tim Kaine, who has loudly broken with the administration on the issue of the AUMF, said he obviously would have liked to see their work done now, but as far as he was concerned, the issue was not going away anytime soon.

"We're starting the process of a congressional authorization and that helps support the troops and it helps the mission. And it will become the de-facto starting point," Kaine told BuzzFeed News. "We will complete the job. Not as quickly as I would like but we will complete it and that will provide an authority for a war without authority."

Despite the partisan vote, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul supported several amendments to the bill. And Corker reiterated at the mark-up that he "believe there is a way for us to pass something that is bipartisan" in the next Congress.

"It's created a good starting point…the tone and the civility were just very good," said Sen. Tom Udall of the bills passage. "It feels like we created a good place to have a good discussion."

Members in both parties expressed to Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday that they felt the president was acting outside his legal authority, though Kerry insisted that an AUMF passed in the wake of 9/11 authorized the current fight with ISIS.

Udall said he was concerned that Republicans wanted to leave the option open for boots on the ground, and he was still pushing to get the Menendez version on the floor before Congress leaves.

"We shouldn't go before this is done," he said.

Other Democratic members said that the ramifications of not passing an AUMF could be dire, and are anxious to get working come January.

"If this stretches on too long or if Congress never authorizes force then I think that has dire consequences for us and the future foreign policy of this country," said Sen. Chris Murphy.

Sen. Jim Risch, a Republican on the committee, said he did not believe that the GOP members of the panel disagreed on all that much—and the reason for the party line vote against the bill was due to "the way it was done."

"I do not believe [the administration] is acting with in their authority, I agree with the Democrats on that," he said. "The Democrats and Republicans have a lot more in common than they do in opposition. It's probably going to be a party line vote simply because of the way we're trying to do it."

  • Picture of Kate Nocera

    Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed News. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.

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