U.S. senators announced long-awaited legislation on Monday to provide congressional authorization for campaigns against militant groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, as lawmakers push to take back authority over the military from the White House.
A group led by Senators Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Tim Kaine, a committee Democrat, proposed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would authorise “all necessary and appropriate force” against al Qaeda, the Taliban, Islamic State and associated forces.
Despite coming days after the U.S. bombing of Syria over chemical weapons, the proposed legislation does not authorise military action against any nation state, including Syria.
It also does not set an end date for military action, although it proposes a congressional review every four years.
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have long argued that they ceded too much authority over the military to both Republican and Democrat presidents – with no time limits – after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to authorise war. But presidents have used AUMFs passed in 2001 for campaigns against al Qaeda and affiliates, and one passed in 2002 for the war in Iraq, to justify a wide range of conflicts since.
Corker said he expected the Foreign Relations Committee to debate and possibly vote on the new AUMF as soon as next week.
It was not immediately clear if the House of Representatives would take up the measure. To become law, it would have to pass the Senate and House and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Noting that Foreign Relations has been trying to pass a new AUMF for years, Corker said it was too soon to discuss the view of the Senate’s Republican leaders.
“I don’t really worry about much beyond having a successful vote in the committee,” he said.
Trump national security aides have pushed back against congressional calls for a new AUMF. However, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, told senators last week it would be useful for lawmakers to weigh in on the military campaign.
The legislation also would require the president to report to Congress on any new military actions and allow lawmakers to vote on whether to reject them.
It would repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs after being in effect for 120 days.