There was a Senate vote on Rand Paul’s amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act earlier today. The amendment would have repealed the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs after six months. The Senate voted to table (i.e., kill) the amendment 61-36. Mike Lee of Utah and Dean Heller of Nevada were the only other Republicans voting nay with Paul to keep the amendment alive. 31 Democrats and 2 independents made up the bulk of the members voting nay. Eleven Democrats voted with the Republican majority to kill the amendment. Three senators did not vote.
Some of the opponents of the amendment professed to be willing to consider a new, updated authorization, but said that a new authorization couldn’t be crafted in the six-month window afforded by the amendment:
But opponents of the measure argued repealing the two war resolutions on such a quick timeline would endanger military operations in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and send mixed signals to U.S. troops and allies overseas.
“I did not expect that 16 years later we would still be engaged in the evolution of that fight that began on 9/11,” said Senate Armed Services ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island. “But we cannot, I think, simply stop, threaten to pull back our legal framework with the expectation that in six months we will produce a new and more appropriate authorization for the use of military force.”
Frankly, the complaint that there isn’t enough time to draft and debate a new AUMF is absurd. There is more than enough time to do it if the members considered it a priority, and by hiding behind such thin excuses it is obvious enough that they don’t think it should be one. The original 2001 AUMF was drawn up in a matter of days, so it shouldn’t be so difficult to manage to find a suitable replacement for it in half a year. Indeed, the only way that Congress might be forced to act on this is if the existing AUMFs expired, so leaving them in place just encourages members to abdicate their role in the process. When opponents of Sen. Paul’s amendment claim that there isn’t time to come up with a replacement for the 2001 AUMF, they are really saying that they can’t be bothered to spend their time on it. That’s a weak and unacceptable excuse for shirking their responsibilities.
The result of the Senate vote was disappointing, but Sen. Paul deserves credit for making the vote happen in the first place. At least now Americans have a better idea where their senators stand on the question of permitting endless war without Congressional authorization.