A Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the Obama administration’s fear of bringing an authorization for military force in Iraq and Syria before Congress is exactly why it should come before Congress.
Before lawmakers left for the campaign recess, the White House was busy assuring Capitol Hill that they were already covered for the strikes against ISIS by the 2001 and 2003 AUMFs.
Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate committee in mid-September that they determined they have authority because “good lawyers within the White House, within the State Department, who have examined this extremely closely, have come to the conclusion across the board that the 2001 AUMF, which says all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons responsible for 9/11, those who harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such persons or organizations. It includes al-Qaeda… ISIL began as al-Qaeda.”
“I appreciate your ability as a former prosecutor and a gifted attorney to try to make the case,” Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) responded. “I will tell you that, at least from the chair’s perspective, you’re going to need a new AUMF.”
However, in his press conference the day after midterm elections, President Obama said he wanted Congress to pass a new AUMF — but not necessarily in the lame duck.
“I’m going to begin engaging Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL. The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support,” Obama said.
“…And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have. And I’m confident we’re going to be able to get that done. And that may just be a process of us getting it started now. It may carry over into the next Congress.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote for The Daily Beast on Monday that “this war is now illegal.”
“It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended,” Paul said. “Congress has a duty to act, one way or the other.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told MSNBC last night that “there’s a growing recognition on both sides of the aisle” that an AUMF debate “must happen.”
“In the lame duck session. Mainly for two reasons. One, it’s impossible at this point to ignore the constitutional imperative. The Constitution in Article I grants war-making power to the United States Congress and the United States Congress only. There is no existing authorization that permits this president to essentially deploy another several thousand troops to fight an enemy that has not been named yet by the United States Congress,” Murphy argued.
“And, so, we have a constitutional responsibility. But, second, Secretary Hagel referenced, it is incumbent upon us as a nation to make sure that we do not go into war, that we never go into war divided. We have a responsibility as Congress to debate this. And to authorize it so that we’re standing together.”
But, Murphy added, “if the executive is been holding off on bringing an authorization to Congress because it’s hard, because it might not pass, then actually that’s the reason why it must come before Congress.”
“Because the worst thing to have happen is for the president to authorize a major new deployment of troops without the support of the Congress, which is representing American people. I think we’re going to vote on this.”
Murphy said he expects the Foreign Relations Committee to take up the AUMF “this week.”
The panel meets this evening behind closed doors for a hearing to examine the ISIS fight.