WASHINGTON — In a surprise move, the House Appropriations Committee approved bill language to end the 2001 authorization of the use of military force and any operations conducted under it.
The language is not law, and it faces a number of political and procedural hurdles, but it was a rare move forward on the issue, as no member of Congress wants to own a war. Republicans have been reluctant to check the commander-in-chief’s war-making ability; Democrats have been reluctant to expand it.
California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who spearheaded the amendment, argued the 2001 AUMF had become “a blank check to wage war at any time on anyone by any president.” She offered a laundry list of countries where the AUMF had been used to justify U.S. military operations.
“The last two presidents have bombed the Middle East and Africa, and President Trump is following down a similar path,” Lee said. “The administration has authorized and launched airstrikes against Syria, sent more troops to fight ISIS and now wants to send thousands more troops to fight in Afghanistan.”
House Defense Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, argued the amendment would cripple the ability of troops in ongoing and future operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe.
But several Republicans who likely disagreed with Lee on the scope of any new AUMF stood in support of her amendment. They argued American troops fighting overseas deserve a debate in Congress and its support.
Two of the Republicans were veterans: Reps. Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL from Virginia, and Chris Stewart of Utah, a former Air Force pilot.
“We are at war against an enemy that did not exist in a place that we did not expect to fight,” Cole said. “How an AUMF can be stretched 16 years, certainly before I was in Congress, is beyond me.”