Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, joined a bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, and Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, in proposing legislation to replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force — AUMFs — with an updated AUMF against al-Qaida, the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The legislation, also cosponsored by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; Todd Young, R-Indiana; and Bill Nelson, D-Florida, strengthens congressional oversight and transparency and provides the executive with updated authorities to fight non-state terrorist groups abroad. The current legal authority was passed by Congress after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and has not been updated since. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over authorizations for use of military force and is scheduled to debate, amend and vote on the proposed legislation the week of April 23.
“The U.S. is conducting military operations around the globe, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in places from North Africa to Syria, that have not been debated or authorized by Congress. Not only is that a serious constitutional issue, but it’s also a disservice to the American people and the men and women of our military who are risking their lives carrying out these missions,” said Coons. “To justify these operations, the Trump administration, just like the Obama and Bush administrations before it, is using authorizations for the use of military force passed in 2001 and 2002, when many of the threats and challenges we’re facing today didn’t even exist. It’s Congress’ job to have full, public debates before voting to send our men and women in uniform to war, and Congress hasn’t been doing that job. This bill is a critically important, bipartisan effort to advance that debate.”
The AUMF of 2018 contains the key provisions:
— Authorization for use of military force: Authorizes the executive to use all necessary and appropriate force against al-Qaida, the Taliban, ISIS and designated associated forces. The legislation does not provide authority for military action against any nation state.
— Quadrennial congressional review: Establishes a process for Congress to review the AUMF every four years without risking a lapse in authorization. On Jan. 20, 2022, and again every four years thereafter, the president must submit to Congress a proposal to repeal, modify or leave in place the AUMF. For a 60-day period beginning on that same date, legislation to repeal or modify the AUMF will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for both debate and a vote. If Congress fails to enact new legislation, the existing authorities remain in place.
— Congressional oversight and transparency: Requires the president to report to Congress on all new designated associated forces, the basis for those designations and each new country in which the U.S. is using military force pursuant to the AUMF; and the president may immediately use force against a new associated force or in a new country pursuant to the new AUMF, but within 48 hours, must notify Congress. Such a notification triggers a 60-day period during which legislation to remove the authority to use military force against the new associated force or in the new foreign country will qualify for expedited consideration. If Congress takes no action, the existing authorities remain in place.
— Repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs: Repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs after the new AUMF has been in place for 120 days.
Introduction of the legislation follows lengthy debate and discussion in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Since June 2017, the committee has held three public hearings, one closed briefing and several meetings on the topic.
Text of the legislation is available at foreign.senate.gov/download/aumf-text.