URGENT ACTION ALERT: Senate to Vote on Amendment to Repeal President's War Authorization
September 13, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Rand Paul / Rare Politics
Sen. Rand Paul's push for a vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act -- which allows a president to declare a war without congressional action as required by the US Constitution -- appears to have been successful, and such a vote will take place after all. There is no formal time set for the vote, but it's expected Wednesday in the late morning. Contact your Senators.
ACTION ALERT: Senate Will Vote on
Amendment to Repeal War Authorization
Amendment Would Give Congress
Six Months to Debate a Replacement
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
"I sit silently to protest the
thousands of American soldiers who have died"
-- Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)
WASHINGTON, DC (September 12, 2017) -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)'s push for a vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) appears to have been successful, and his office issued a press release confirming that such a vote will take place after all. Previously, there were doubts, as the Senate leadership sought to severely limit discussion of amendments and just push the NDAA through.
The amendment is short and simple. It would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) as well as the 2002 AUMF against Iraq. The two authorizations would sunset in six months, giving Congress a window in which to debate a replacement authorization.
Limited debate on the amendment was held Tuesday evening, with expectations of further debate Wednesday morning. There is no formal time set for the vote, but it's expected Wednesday in the late morning.
Paul has advocated the repeal of the AUMF because it has been used by recent presidents as a blanket justification for new wars. Despite the 2001 AUMF not having anything to do with them, it is presently used as the legal cover for seven US military operations worldwide.
The hope is that it will attract support not just from antiwar senators, but also from senators who have wanted a new AUMF that is directly applicable to current wars, since the repeals would oblige the leadership to finally allow debate on such an effort.
At the same time, some ultra-hawks, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), oppose the effort, because an AUMF directly applicable to current wars would inevitably include specific limits on those wars. These hawks prefer to keep the wars effectively unauthorized to give the president limitless power to escalate.
A new AUMF, informed by the abuses caused by the vagueness of the past ones, would doubtless be more limited, and make it difficult for presidents to unilaterally launch new wars.
Sen. Paul is already getting new support for the vote now that it's going to happen. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who had just days prior publicly attacked the amendment as a "disservice" to the military, now says he supports it.
ACTION: Those interested in contacting their senators to express support for the amendment can find contact information here. With the vote expected soon, those wishing to do so should contact them as soon as possible.
Senate Leaders Attempt to
Limit Debate on Repealing AUMF
Sen. Paul Threatens to Hold Up Military
Spending Bill Over Debate Limits
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 11, 2017) -- Senate officials are hoping to get to a final vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a military spending bill in excess of $700 billion. Getting to that vote, however, means dealing with all the military and war-related amendments in the bill.
Senate leaders appear to have decided that the easiest way to get around this is to severely curtail debate on certain particularly controversial issues, with an 89-3 vote today agreeing to limit procedural debates on the matter.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is trying to manage the debate, which is to say, dramatically curtail the debate. There are still major issues to be settled, however, with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) both pushing major debates, on war authorization and transgender soldiers, respectively.
Sen. Paul intends to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The amendment is seen as politically awkward for some hawks, who argue that they want to create a new AUMF that explicitly covers current wars, but who are reluctant to see any limitations placed on the way America's wars are waged.
That's the 2001 AUMF problem all over. Though on paper it was intended to only cover 9/11 and the Afghan War, the authorization has been used by all presidents since as carte blanche to wage any war, anywhere on earth, in which the term terrorism can remotely be applied.
The fact that the existing AUMF clearly does not authorize many of America's current wars has meant that in practice, presidents have totally eroded what limited war-making power Congress still claimed for itself. This has led to years of talk about an AUMF being drafted specifically for the ISIS war.
For the ultra-hawkish Senators, and none so much as Sen. McCain, a new AUMF necessarily means defining the current wars, which means limiting the ways they can be unilaterally escalated. At the same time, many of those hawks have publicly advocated a new AUMF, which means it would be difficult to justify repealing the old, obsolete one.
Sen. Paul is angry about the vote limiting the debate on his amendment, saying he intends to hold up the whole bill with his protest to try to convince them to reverse course and allow such considerations.
Paul noted in a new op-ed that the old AUMF is being used inappropriately to justify US wars in seven different countries, and that sun-setting it would allow for actual debate on which wars to continue and which to end.
This means a new AUMF would, for all intents and purposes, be a debate of all of America's current wars, at least if the 2001 version was repealed. That would include not just the ISIS war, likely to be the focus of the new AUMF, but also older conflicts like the 16-year-old Afghan occupation, which President Trump recently laid out an open-ended escalation for.
In the end, Sen. Paul can't hold up the whole NDAA forever over his AUMF amendment. It marks the latest in a long line of efforts by the Senate leadership to hold back an AUMF debate, something that's been happening since 2013.
ACTION: Antiwar.com encourages readers to contact their senators regarding this important issue. Contact information for your senators can be found here.
Why We Must Repeal the 16-year-old
Authorization for the Use of Military Force
Rand Paul / Rare Politics
(September 11, 2017) -- As Congress takes up the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I will insist it vote on my amendment to sunset the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.
Because these authorizations to use military force are inappropriately being used to justify American warfare in 7 different countries. Sun-setting both AUMFs will force a debate on whether we continue the Afghanistan war, the Libya war, the Yemen war, the Syria war, and other interventions.
Our military trains our soldiers to be focused and disciplined, yet the politicians who send them to fight have for years ignored those traits when developing our foreign policy.
The result? Trillions spent in seemingly endless conflicts in every corner of the globe, while we find ourselves 16 years into the war in Afghanistan wondering what our purpose there even is any more, or if we'll ever bring our troops home.
If we don't get this rudderless foreign policy under control now, we'll still be asking the same questions another 16 years down the road.
It's time to demand the policymakers take their own jobs as seriously as the men and women we ask to risk it all for our nation.
Doing so means restoring constitutional checks and balances. Congress has no greater responsibility than defending our country, and the Founders entrusted it with the power of declaring war because they wanted such a weighty decision to be thoroughly debated by the legislature instead of unilaterally made by the Executive branch.
Yet Congress has largely abdicated its role anyways, and its sidekick status was plainly evident when former President Obama proposed a new AUMF for the fight against ISIS while insisting he really had all the authority he needed -- it being more of a "wouldn't it be nice" afterthought than an acknowledgement of any required step.
Repealing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs would restore respect for the balance of power and reassert Congress' voice by forcing legislators to specifically approve or disapprove the direction of our foreign policy. If my provision passes, the authorizations would sunset six months later, allowing Congress time for a thorough debate about how we will move forward.
I say this fully aware Congress could propose a blanket authorization I could never vote for, but that vote needs to at least happen.
Let's hear from those who want that blanket authorization and wish to keep the policy of perpetual war going. Let's give the American people a chance to see that case laid out and to make their voices known. Their representatives cannot continue to hide behind steps taken 16 years ago to avoid accountability and debating the tough issues now.
Americans were unified in bringing the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to justice, and the 2001 AUMF reflected that in approving action against those that planned, aided, or carried out the attacks, or protected those who did. I would have voted for it because it was the right thing to do.
It said nothing, however, about launching airstrikes against ISIS in Libya. Or Syria. Or intervening in Yemen.
Although ISIS is a threat we must confront and defeat, we cannot continue to throw our Constitution out the window to do so, or our enemies will have won a crucial victory no matter how many of them we destroy.
Believing in that document -- having the confidence that the Founders were students of government's mistakes throughout history and got it right -- strengthens us more than opening yet another front with billions of dollars we have to borrow from another country.
Instead of pursuing a whack-a-mole foreign policy that consistently keeps us on the defensive and endangers our nation by spreading us thin, let's utilize the same focus and discipline we expect of our military to give them specific authorization as each unique situation warrants.
My amendment would give the US Senate that chance.
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