In a stunning move, the House Appropriations Committee today approved an amendment to the massive military spending bill offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D – CA). The amendment, passed in a voice vote, and would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
Rep. Lee has long been pushing amendments and bills trying to end America’s assorted wars. That one actually passed committee this time is nothing short of newsworthy, though the House Republican leadership was also quick to insist the vote doesn’t actually count.
The 2001 AUMF authorizes the president to wage war on those directly involved in 9/11, the interpretation of which at this point is that the president can declare wars pretty much at will and this amounts to Congressional authorization for all of them. This AUMF was used to justify the Afghan War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the re-invasion of Iraq after that first war ended, and the invasion of Syria both to fight against ISIS, and potentially to pick a fight with the Syrian government. It was also presented as justification for the 2016 US intervention in Libya, though ironically not the US-led regime change war in Libya, which was itself “justified” by a vaguely worded UN resolution.
House Republicans are steaming about the Lee Amendment, insisting it cripples the legal basis for all of America’s many, many wars, not just at present but in the future. They’re going for a do-over on the amendment, insisting the vote was “out of order” and therefore didn’t really count.
This argument is based on the House Foreign Affairs Committee arguing that they have “sole jurisdiction” over all AUMFs, and that it was therefore impossible for the Appropriations Committee to repeal it, like the vote did.
Rep. Lee’s Amendment was supported by several House Republicans on the Committee, who argued that the US wars are “against an enemy that did not exist” back in 2001, and that it’s time to repeal the old AUMF and pass a new, modern version.
Repeal and replace for the AUMF has been a cause embraced by many, but mostly shunned by the leadership, which has concerns that a new AUMF that’s deliberately applicable to current wars might include explicit limits on the scope of those wars, infringing on the president’s newfound power from the old AUMF to launch wars worldwide and totally unilaterally.
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