WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives blocked an attempt Wednesday to end funding under the 2001 law that granted the White House authority to fight what has turned into an endless war.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Congress overwhelmingly passed the two-page Authorization to Use Military Force, specifying that the president can "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 AUMF was invoked to invade Afghanistan and has since underpinned the use of drone strikes around the world, the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects -- potentially including Americans -- and the operation of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, among other things.
President Barack Obama has called for the measure to be updated, and so have senators on both sides of the aisle. But an amendment offered by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to bar any more funding for this "war" as of the end of 2014 failed 185 to 236.
Schiff argued that while terrorism may still be a threat, the enemy targeted by the 2001 AUMF is nearly unrecognizable today, and many of the actors in current conflicts didn't even exist at the time, such as the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab.
He said the authorization should sunset in December 2014 "when the last American combat troops will rotate out of Afghanistan and the responsibility for security will have passed to the Afghan people after more than 13 years of war in that country.
"New Year's Day 2015 should not only bring about a new relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, it should also mark the end of a conflict that was begun in our skies on that September morning," Schiff said.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who led the opposition to Schiff's amendment, responded that it was "too dangerous" to set a 16-month timeline for replacing the AUMF. "Of course we all want this war on terrorism and other wars to end, but unfortunately the enemy gets a vote," Thornberry said, adding that America is still a target for many enemies around the world.
Schiff suggested Thornberry was missing the point.
"No one is suggesting, of course, terrorism is going to go away in 16 months or that all our problems will be over," Schiff said. "This AUMF is now outdated, and unless we have a sunset date, we're going to continue to rely on an AUMF that no longer describes the nature of the conflict we're in."
Thornberry also argued that ending the AUMF was unwise because Congress might act to replace it, but then again it might not.
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) countered that Congress has a "constitutional responsibility" to address the aging war authorization, saying that 16 months would leave plenty of time.
"It's such a serious issue," Visclosky said, "I think even this Congress could come to grips with that type of fundamental issue."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.