Key Lawmakers Reignite Call for AUMF Markup

Two senior Democratic and Republican House lawmakers have begun circulating a letter that calls on the chamber’s leadership to order the speedy drafting of an authorization granting President Barack Obama power to wage war against the Islamic State.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Tom Cole, a senior defense appropriator, have drafted a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner urging him “to instruct the appropriate committees to hold a mark-up and to set aside floor time at the earliest possible juncture for the House to debate and vote on an Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL.”

While both the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees have held hearings on the White House’s proposed language, progress has been slow-going on designing a measure that satisfies the contradictory aims of Republicans and Democrats. Many GOP lawmakers want an open-ended authorization that does not prevent the Pentagon from also going after the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Meanwhile, Democrats tend to favor a more restricted AUMF that would forbid the deployment of large numbers of U.S. troops for ground combat operations and expire after a few years. The political situation is much the same in the Senate.


“We recognize that members, both Republicans and Democrats, have different views as to how an AUMF should be constructed,” Schiff and Cole said. “However, those differences are all the more reason to allow the House to work its will through the legislative process.”


Obama asserts he already possesses the necessary legal authority to go after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, through the 2001 AUMF against al-Qaida. Still, he has asked for a new authorization on the grounds its passage by strong bipartisan majorities of Congress would signal to allies in the Middle East the United States can be counted on over the long-term in the fight against the growing terrorist threat.


Schiff, D-Calif. and Cole, R-Okla., point out that approximately eight months have gone by since Obama first ordered strikes against ISIS targets. If Congress does not take action soon to provide “a clear legal justification for the actions against ISIL,” it jeopardizes its future ability to act as a check on the executive branch’s power to go to war, they wrote.


A House Democratic staffer, who was not authorized to talk on the record, said Schiff and Cole anticipate many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will sign-on once they return on Tuesday. The letter will be sent to Boehner later in the week.

Source: Congressional Quarterly