A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers with differing political ideologies are making the argument that Congress must reclaim its constitutional responsibility to declare war and authorize the use of military force from the executive branch.
“We have been at war in the Middle East for nearly two decades, under authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) that our predecessors in Congress passed almost a generation ago,” the group of seven Republican, Democrat and independent House members wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Justin Amash (I-Mich.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Chip Roy (R-Tex.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) all appear on the byline of the piece.
At issue is the 2002 AUMF, which authorized military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. Given the death of Hussein, regime change, and the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces, the representatives said the authorization has outlived its purpose.
“Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have used the 18-year-old Iraq War authorization to send American service members into conflict,” Golden, a marine veteran who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, wrote in a tweet that linked to the article.
The representatives also said a “lingering” 1991 AUMF that permitted the Gulf War should be removed from the books, too, “lest either [AUMF] be used to justify further military engagement beyond what Congress intended.”
The lawmakers additionally called for a strategic alternative to a 2001 authorization that gave the White House authority to use force against terrorist organizations, which they said has been used to justify, “an array of military engagements against targets that, although perhaps worthy, were in some cases nonexistent or unimagined 19 years ago.”
With regards to the 2001 AUMF, the representatives said that while reconsideration would be “difficult, contentious and emotional, it must not be partisan.”
“Our debates and votes must affirm that the decision to proceed with war-making resides in Congress” they wrote, adding that future authorizations should have a more clear scope and include requirements for periodical congressional reconsideration to prevent “ill-defined forever wars.”
Congress inched closer to recapturing its power in war-making decisions this month when, for the second year in a row, it moved to repeal the 2002 AUMF.
The day before the vote, President Trump appeared to throw support behind Republicans wishing to back the measure, tweeting lawmakers from both parties should “vote their hearts.”
He walked back his comments later that day, tweeting, “Democrats want to make it harder for Presidents to defend America.”
“Nancy Pelosi wants Congress to take away authority Presidents use to stand up to other countries and defend AMERICANS. Stand with your Commander in Chiefs!” he exclaimed in a second tweet.
That’s the kind of partisan rhetoric Golden and others would like to move beyond.
“At a time of divisive, angry partisanship, the call to do right by our service members, their families and the Constitution is one that can and should unite us,” they wrote.