02.10.16

Members Call on Speaker To Hold War Debate

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Barbara Lee, Walter Jones, Adam Schiff, Jim McGovern, Peter Welch and 20 other Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Speaker Ryan calling for a debate and vote on the year-plus, multi-billion dollar war raging in the Middle East.

“Tomorrow will mark one year since President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF. Over the last 365 days, it has sat on the Speaker’s desk while our nation has become increasingly more embroiled in yet another costly and endless war in the Middle East,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “The Constitution is clear: Congress has a responsibility to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. The American people deserve better than a Congress that abdicates this sacred responsibility.”

The letter, addressed to Speaker Ryan, cites language included in the omnibus spending bill that finds “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”

During the Appropriations process, Congresswoman Lee added this language to the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of Defense Appropriations bill, with the support of six Republican committee members.

In the State of the Union, President Obama renewed his call for a Congressional debate on the AUMF. He said, “If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote.”

"For 15 years, the American people have felt the cost and pain of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have spent over $1.5 trillion and lost over 6,800 brave men and women. ISIL is a new and distinct threat, and the American people expect Congress to meet its constitutional responsibility to have a debate and a vote on whether yet another war is worth the grave cost,” said Congressman Jones (R-NC).

“Nearly 18 months into the military operation against ISIS, and a year since the President submitted a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force, Congress continues to abdicate its responsibility to consider a new AUMF to authorize the war against ISIS,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee. “There are a variety of different approaches and ideas to authorize the campaign against ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Congressional leadership must allow a full and open debate and vote on the matter. The power to declare war is one of Congress most solemn responsibilities and if our troops are willing to do their jobs -- and they are -- Congress should have the guts to do its job.”

"In November, a bipartisan group of 35 House lawmakers urged Speaker Ryan to bring an AUMF to the House floor for a debate and vote. We were pleased to hear Speaker Ryan include this as a priority for 2016. Today, I join with my colleagues in calling on him to deliver on that promise,” Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said. “Americans deserve a Congress that will honor its constitutional responsibility when it comes to war and authorizing military force. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve nothing less."

“The Constitution is clear. It is the responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force. Yet, since military operations against ISIL began in August 2014, Congress has been absent.” Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) said. “It’s inexcusable. A service member has died. Taxpayers have spent more than $5.8 billion on airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Speaker Ryan acknowledged that a declaration of war is the responsibility of Congress. He is right. It’s time for Congress to debate and vote on America’s strategy to defeat of ISIL.”

The letter can be found here.

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.