Dems Vow to Curb President’s Post-9/11 War Powers

Congress expected to rethink authority granted by AUMF

The post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda offered American presidents broad war-making powers. 17 years and umpteen wars later, it’s safe to say the presidents have been using that. The incoming Democratic House of Representatives is looking at changing that.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) says one of his biggest concerns is the blank check war-making power presidents have had since the AUMF. He said that when he voted for it “I never would’ve imagined that the president could use it as a sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) concurred, saying it is “constitutionally absurd” that US wars are still operating on the 9/“ AUMF, saying that the Constitution gives presidents wide latitude, but that “it is long past time” for Congress to revisit the issue.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) was quick to note he’d been trying to offer amendments to limit the wars for years, and that the Republican-dominated Rules Committee “has routinely denied” them. McGovern is going to be the new chair of the Rules Committee in January, and says he expects there will be efforts to force a new AUMF with more constraints and well-defined authorizations.

That’s an issue many in Congress have talked about for years. The 2001 AUMF is incredibly vague, and when President Obama proposed a replacement late in his second term, he bragged the replacement was itself so vague that it would leave him unconstrained. That admission killed the Obama proposal, but Congress never got around to an alternative, real AUMF.

Any AUMF would be a highly contentious issue, as presidents have consistently resisted anything limiting them at all, and there have historically been enough hawks in the leadership to kill the issue.

This may be an optimum time, with the Democrat leadership eager to contest Trump, and the 2020 election far enough away now that there will be fewer calls to defer the issue until after the next vote, something that’s killed previous proposals throughout the decade.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.