WASHINGTON -- Democratic senators unveiled legislation Friday night to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a sweeping 9/11-era war authorization that never expired and that President Barack Obama is now using to justify the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State.
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the bill. It would terminate the 2001 AUMF in three years and clarify that Congress "never intended and did not authorize a perpetual war" by passing that authorization.
Their legislation comes days after Obama sent Congress a new AUMF tailored to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL or ISIS. While his proposal calls for limits on duration and ground troops, it does nothing to rein in the 2001 AUMF -- the same authority Obama has been using for the past six months to fight ISIS. That means, regardless of whether Congress passes his new AUMF, the old authorization's broad war authority remains available to Obama and future presidents.
"By leaving in place the 2001 AUMF, Congress could be authorizing a state of perpetual war and giving this President and future presidents a blank check to keep America at war," said Cardin.
As a candidate and as a president, Obama talked about the need to move the nation away from endless war -- and specifically to do away with the 2001 authorization. The fact that his AUMF proposal didn't attempt to rein it in has drawn criticism from Democrats demanding a stop to open-ended wars.
"It just doesn't make sense for us to keep looking for ways we can use a 13-year-old bill for the authority to go after terrorist groups that didn’t even exist when the bill was passed,” said Murphy.
The full text of the bill is below:
Title: To sunset the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force after three years.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Sunset of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act”.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) On September 11, 2001, the United States and its citizens were victims of the worst terrorist attacks in world history.
(2) The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were planned, financed, and executed by al Qaeda, a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden.
(3) Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan throughout the period leading up to the attacks, and the three previous attacks against United States targets, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 East Africa bombings, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, were planned by al Qaeda central.
(4) From 1996 to 2001, the Taliban government of Afghanistan knowingly harbored al Qaeda, and was complicit in its plots against the United States, and al Qaeda, in turn, supported the Taliban, including sponsoring and training the elite Arab 55th Brigade of the Taliban Army.
(5) Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) to provide the President with requisite authorization to use “force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons”.
(6) Congress never intended and did not authorize a perpetual war.
(7) With the withdrawal of United States combat troops from Afghanistan and the transition to Afghan national security forces at the end of 2014, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was focused on the September 11th attacks and those directly responsible, will have largely served its purpose.
(8) The homeland and the American people face new threats from individuals, entities, and organizations that may affiliate with al Qaeda, or share its ideology and its determination to attack Americans, but which may not be connected to the September 11, 2001, attacks or those who carried them out to a degree sufficient to be covered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(9) Even after the expiration of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, there is likely to remain the need to defend against specific networks of violent extremists, including al Qaeda and its affiliates, that threaten the United States, and the President must work with the legislative branch to secure whatever new authorities may be required to meet the threat and comply with the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).
SEC. 3. SUNSET OF 2001 AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) shall terminate on the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act, unless reauthorized.