- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2017

A House spending panel Thursday unexpectedly voted to yank the legal authority that allowed three U.S. presidents to conduct military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other global crisis spots.

On a voice vote, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee that would revoke the current “Authorization for Use of Military Force” 240 days after the enactment of the bill. The California Democrat, one of the most liberal members of the House, was the lone vote against the original AUMF for President George W. Bush passed three days after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

That authorization, still in effect, gives the president the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

The law has been invoked by Mr. Bush, former President Obama and now President Trump in ordering missions to invade Iraq, fight Islamic State in countries around the world, and conduct other counterterrorism missions. According to the Congressional Research Service, the law has justified military action nearly 40 times in 14 countries.

Both liberal and conservative critics have pushed Congress to debate and pass an updated and more narrowly written war-fighting authorization, but have failed repeatedly to get lawmakers to act.

“In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration,” Mr. Lee wrote in 2001. In the following years, she has brought up the issue repeatedly, arguing that Congress should debate each time before deploying troops.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the House spending panel supported Ms. Lee’s amendment this time. The only member who questioned the proposal Thursday was Rep. Kay Granger, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, who warned it could make the overall spending bill harder to pass.

“The amendment is a deal-breaker and would tie the hands of the U.S. to act,” she said. “It cripples our ability to conduct counterterrorism operations.”

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program, said it’s time for debate and revision to the AUMF, but he expressed concern about repealing it without a replacement in hand.

“I worry that Congress might try to place firm time limits on future combat operations or otherwise circumscribe the president’s options in a war that is rapidly evolving and maturing,” he said in an email to The Washington Times. “Unless the old AUMF were replaced, simultaneously, with a new and well-crafted one, I’d therefore be strongly inclined to keep what we have.”  

The amendment could still be stripped from the bill as it works its way through the House and Senate, but Ms. Lee was already celebrating the surprise vote on Twitter.

“GOP & Dems agree: a floor debate & vote on endless war is long overdue,” she tweeted.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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