Lawmakers to Trump: End unchecked war powers
Twelve House Democrats and one Republican are calling on President Donald Trump to formally declare war against the Islamic State and submit a resolution to Congress that limits his war powers — a request that is not likely to be heeded.
The letter, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and obtained by POLITICO, comes as the Pentagon is considering options for ramping up its nearly three-year campaign against ISIL and follows a request by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for thousands more troops in a war against the Taliban now entering its 16th year.
“For too many years, Congress has ignored these ongoing wars,” the lawmakers write. “Our brave service members face countless dangers for our nation and we owe it to them to act on an AUMF without delay.”
The lone Republican signatory calling for the authorization for use of military force is Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina. Jones last week became the only Republican to back a bill co-sponsored by House Democrats to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The letter is also signed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a leading candidate in the race to chair the Democratic National Committee.
Lawmakers are urging Trump to submit a draft war resolution that provides “specific information on the geographic, combatant and tactical scope” of the war against ISIL. They are also asking for it to include a sunset provision and repeal the 2001 AUMF that authorized force against those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The 2001 resolution, they write, “has served as a blank check for war.”
The post-9/11 AUMF has no end date and has been broadly interpreted by the Bush and Obama administrations to allow the military to carry out strikes against suspected terrorists the world over, from the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, and even on the “high seas,” according to the Congressional Research Service. There is concern among some congressional Democrats that Trump could use the broad powers of the 2001 resolution to further expand what he has called an ideological war against radical Islam.
The post-9/11 resolution has not been updated since its passage and is the primary legal justification for the U.S. campaign against ISIL, even though ISIL did not exist in 2001 and has publicly feuded with Al Qaeda, which carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In a statement, Lee said the “bipartisan letter shows that members of Congress agree that blank checks for endless war are unacceptable and dangerous.”
Congress, though, tried and failed to pass a war resolution against ISIL after the Obama administration submitted a draft proposal in February 2015. That effort collapsed as Democrats pushed for tighter restrictions and Republicans opposed curbing the president’s ability to fight terrorists.
The new Republican-led Congress is unlikely to revive the debate anytime soon, given that most lawmakers believe the 2001 resolution is sufficient to cover the war against ISIL and since GOP leaders already have their hands full attempting to replace Obamacare and tackle a complicated tax overhaul.
Still, Trump seemed open to a new war resolution during the campaign when he was asked last May by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly whether he would favor a new “declaration of war.”
"It wouldn't bother me at all doing that,” Trump responded. “We probably should have done that in the first place.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also wrote a 2015 blog post calling for a new war resolution with few restrictions.
The new resolution, Mattis said at the time, would “send an essential message of American steadfastness to our people and to the global audience. Its passage will demonstrate our country’s fundamental unity and enable a broader commitment to deal firmly with a real and growing menace.”
Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 war resolution.
“For over 15 years, Congress has been missing in action and derelict in our duty to provide congressional oversight over military action,” she said in her statement. "The Constitution is clear: The American people deserve a voice on matters of war and peace.”
To read this article as it originally appeared, click here.
By: Austin Wright
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