Press Statement on New Authorization of Military Force

Congressional Leadership Allows for Bipartisan AUMF Amendment to be Removed Without a Vote

Today, the House Rules Committee stripped from the Defense Appropriations Bill the latest effort by a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to force a debate on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). This move was done through a procedural rule requiring none of the members of the committee to cast an actual vote.

In the next few weeks, Congress will debate and approve legislation to authorize and appropriate over $1 trillion in national security spending, some of which the Pentagon and White House says is needed to continue our military operations in the Middle East--which was first authorized in 2001. While the situation and threats to our national security have evolved over the past 16 years, Congress has failed to update its authorization of the use of force.

Many in Congress still refuse to exercise their Constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on the use of military force. The American people deserve to know where their Members of Congress stand on a new AUMF.

Below our statements by our leading experts on national security policies.

Quotes by Mandy Smithberger, Director of the CDI Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO):

Congress is fundamentally broken if it cannot perform its constitutional duty to declare war. Politicians on both sides of the aisle know the refusal to allow a debate and a vote on a new authorization of the use of military force is inexcusable, it’s time for leadership in Congress to allow this debate to happen and vote on the record for where and for what we reasons we send our troops into harm’s way.

We applaud the Members of Congress who continue to push for this debate. Yet again leadership proved its cowardice when it comes exercising its constitutional war powers by using a procedural trick to block an up-or-down vote to authorize our current wars.

Quotes by Dan Grazier, Jack Shanahan Fellow at POGO and frmr. Marine Captain:

The power to declare war, or in this case “authorize the use of force” is one of the most sacred and solemn duties the citizens entrust to their elected officials. The current authorization was passed eight congresses ago. As the situation has changed significantly in the intervening years, it is past time for Congress to openly debate and vote once again to ensure the interests of the American people are being best served by our continued military involvement overseas.

Further background on the latest effort to debate and pass a new AUMF.

The 2001 AUMF authorized the use of force in response to the September 11th attacks, but has since been twisted to cover a number of conflicts that have little to no connection to those attacks. The Congressional Research Service found that the AUMF has been used to allow deploying and directing forces, or to engage in other actions, in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Georgia, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, and Somalia. Lee, along with Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) and 53 other colleagues in the House, and Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in the Senate, have spent years trying to get Congress to vote on a new AUMF to reflect our current commitments without success.

The Lee amendment was a brief moment of progress, surprisingly passing in the committee on a bipartisan vote. Representatives Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Scott Taylor (R-VA), both military veterans themselves, criticized Congress’s inaction on debating and approving a new AUMF. But that progress has been halted for now by the House Rules committee—which proudly touts itself as the “Speaker’s Committee” because it’s the Speaker’s way of controlling the House Floor—which stripped the language from the bill in the dead of night before it could get to the Floor for a vote. The Rules Committee  replaced it with language Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) had added to a different defense authorization bill; that language required a report and budgetary analysis from the President on how to defeat Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State, including an analysis of whether the current AUMF is sufficient to accomplish that strategy. While this language is an important step forward, it stops far short of Congress actually doing its job and voting—and thus being accountable—for our current wars. Cole himself supported the language offered by Lee.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Real Clear Politics it was “a mistake” that the amendment had passed and that an appropriations bill was the wrong vehicle for debating the issue. But it appears there’s never going to be a right vehicle. The Speaker and his Republican and Democratic predecessors, through the Rules committee, have repeatedly blocked votes on this issue on defense authorization bills—a pretty natural vehicle for the debate. They have not allowed standalone legislation to be considered, either.

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Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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