As War Powers Debate Looms, Sen. Merkley Seeks More Restrictive AUMF

Proposes AUMF with limits, three-year sunset clause

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) is looking to get involved in the Senate’s upcoming debate on war powers with an alternative Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) which aims to constrain US war fighting. This stands in stark contrast to the vague, and largely meaningless version written by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Merkley’s AUMF would repeal both the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs,, while aiming to limit the use of US ground troops, and requiring further Congressional action for further escalations of the ongoing wars. Most significantly, it sunsets in three-years, providing a specific time limit to the wars.

A strict time limit is a serious change, as the other alternative AUMFs all take a very cynical approach to expiration, either allowing for simple votes to extend the war, or in the case of the main proposal, automatic extensions and no way for it to ever actually expire.

17 years into the 2001 AUMF, that’s likely to face major administration opposition, as presidents have used that AUMF to keep launching new wars, and continuing the existing wars for years on end. with neither debate nor real Congressional oversight.

If Sen. Merkley’s bill is more sincere about reasserting Congressional authority, it would be a significant move. Still, it is unclear if Congress would have enough interest to pass such an effort.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of