Kelley Vlahos reports on a piece of legislation that would amount to Congress’ total surrender on war powers:
A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate Monday would give the president sweeping authority to wage endless war anywhere in the world with limited congressional intervention.
Perversely billed as a plan to “reassert” Congressional power to “authorize where, when and with who we are at war,” the proposal for a new AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) falls way short of that promise. In fact, it achieves quite the opposite. The bill, if passed, would not only codify all of the authority the president has now to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban and “associated forces” as interpreted in the current 2001 AUMF, but allow the president to add as many targets as desired in the future. Congress can only reverse these add-ons with a veto-proof supermajority, and the White House is not mandated to fully disclose any new “associated forces” publicly or even to the full Congress [bold mine-DL]. Nor is there a sunset provision requiring Congressional reauthorization, only a mere “review” every four years.
Perhaps the only thing worse than Congress’ failure to do its job as a check on the executive is when it pretends to do that job by becoming the president’s rubber stamp. The new AUMF doesn’t just represent a failure to rein the perpetual war that the U.S. has been fighting for more than 16 years, but it also preemptively bows to the whims of presidents far into the future. A future Congress could repeal this abomination if it became law, but considering how long the 2001 AUMF has been around and how little interest there has been in changing it that is not likely to happen anytime soon. The U.S. should stop waging illegal and unauthorized wars, but giving a blanket endorsement to an ever-expanding, never-ending global war against an increasing number of enemies is certainly not the answer.
Gene Healy and John Glaser propose instead that the 2001 AUMF has served its purpose and is no longer needed, and should therefore be repealed without a substitute:
Instead, Congress should declare that the purposes of the 2001 authorization have been fulfilled and that it has run its constitutionally justified course.
This “repeal, don’t replace” option wouldn’t leave the executive branch legally hamstrung should any of these groups, or others, become a genuine threat. The president would still retain independent constitutional power to “repel sudden attacks” in case of an imminent threat. Should Mr. Trump decide that Al Shabab, for example, represents a serious, long-term danger to our national security, he is free to make that case to the people’s representatives and secure authorization for war.
If Congress wants to reclaim the responsibility and authority in matters of war that are properly theirs, they should reject the new Corker-Kaine AUMF and repeal the current one. That would force members of Congress and the public to reconsider why the U.S. is fighting unending foreign wars in over half a dozen countries and to reassess whether any of these conflicts is still worth fighting more than 16 years after the 9/11 attacks.
A replacement AUMF that compounds all of the worst flaws of the current one and adds a few more of its own is obnoxious and ought to be voted down by a wide margin.