Obama Sends Congress Draft War Authorization

02/11/2015 08:57 am ET | Updated Feb 12, 2015

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday formally asked Congress for new war authority to fight Islamic State militants.

Obama's request came in the form of a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It's a retroactive request: Congress is receiving the document six months after the U.S. began bombing the Islamic State group, also called ISIS. The president has said he believes he already has the authority to go after the group -- citing a sweeping 2001 AUMF as his legal grounds to act unilaterally -- but welcomes congressional signoff. Some lawmakers don't think he currently has the authority.

The proposed AUMF would limit military action against the Islamic State to three years and allow limited use of U.S. ground troops for things like rescue operations or intelligence sharing. It would put no geographic limitations on the military campaign; instead, it would limit military action to countering the Islamic State and associated forces. It would also repeal a 2002 Iraq War AUMF that never expired, but it would leave in place the broad 2001 AUMF. The new AUMF would sunset in three years.

Obama will give a statement on his proposal at the White House later Wednesday.

Lawmakers have been clamoring for AUMF language from the White House for months, as a starting point for their debate on war authorization legislation. But just because they have it now doesn't mean it will sail through Congress.

Republicans don't want to restrict the president's ability to fight the Islamic State, so many won't like the limits on U.S. ground troops. Democrats, meanwhile, are wary of mistakes made in the Iraq War and want tight limits on the use of troops. Some won't like that the 2001 AUMF is left in place, and some have already raised concerns with the AUMF's language dictating when U.S. ground troops can't be used: in "enduring offensive ground combat operations."

"What does it mean? How long, how big, is 'enduring'? 'Offensive,' what's 'offensive'?" Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Tuesday. "That, to me, is the crux of our debate."

"We have some legitimate questions as to whether we open this up with a loophole that could lead to another major war," he said.

Now that lawmakers have the president's proposal, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to begin holding hearings with top administration officials to clarify the strategy for defeating the Islamic State. After that, the AUMF itself will come before the committee and members can, and will, offer amendments.

See below for the full text of the AUMF and the accompanying letter to Congress:

AUMF Text

Letter:

AUMF Transmittal Letter

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misidentified Dick Durbin as Senate minority leader.

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