Trump’s war pow­ers to be lim­ited under res­o­lu­tion

Pro­posal has bi­par­ti­san sup­port in Congress

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

U.S. troops could con­tinue fight­ing the Tal­iban and al Qaeda and would be given ex­plicit new per­mis­sion to bat­tle the Is­lamic State — but would not be au­tho­rized to at­tack the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of any na­tion state, such as Syria — under up­dated rules of war pro­posed by a bi­par­ti­san group of se­na­tors Mon­day.

Led by Sen. Bob Corker, chair­man of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, the new Autho­riza­tion for the Use of Mil­i­tary Force would re­place 2001 and 2002 AUMFs that started the war on ter­ror and paved the way for the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq.

The com­man­der in chief — in this case Pres­i­dent Trump — would be au­tho­rized to keep up the fight against a long list of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions that were ei­ther af­fil­i­ated with or spun off of al Qaeda, in­clud­ing the Haqqani Net­work, al-Shabab and the Al Nus­rah Front.

But Congress would be granted more over­sight pow­ers, in­clud­ing hav­ing to reau­tho­rize the war pow­ers ev­ery four years.

More than two-thirds of law­mak­ers now sit­ting in Congress weren’t there in 2001 when the first autho­riza­tion was ap­proved in the days af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks.

That in­cludes Mr. Corker, who said his com­mit­tee has been try­ing to come up with a re­write since at least 2013, and Sen. Tim Kaine, a Vir­ginia Demo­crat who was his party’s 2016 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

“We’ve let the 9/11 and Iraq War au­tho­riza­tions get stretched to jus­tify wars against mul­ti­ple ter­ror­ist groups in over a dozen coun­tries, from Niger to the Philip­pines,” Mr. Kaine said. “Our pro­posal fi­nally re­peals those au­tho­riza­tions and makes Congress do its job by weigh­ing in on where, when, and with who we are at war.”

The new res­o­lu­tion comes just days af­ter Mr. Trump or­dered airstrikes on Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties.

That de­ci­sion has sparked a fierce de­bate in Wash­ing­ton about whether the pres­i­dent had le­gal au­thor­ity to ap­prove the strikes with­out first com­ing to Congress.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has of­fered com­pet­ing ex­pla­na­tions. Mr. Trump said he had in­her­ent pow­ers as com­man­der in chief to pro­tect “vi­tal” na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests. But his CIA di­rec­tor last week said the strikes would be done under the 2001 AUMF au­tho­riz­ing war against the Tal­iban and al Qaeda.

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Repub­li­can, said Mon­day that “no pres­i­dent of the United States, no mat­ter party or po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy, has the au­thor­ity to uni­lat­er­ally start a war.”

Mon­day’s pro­posal does not ap­pear to give autho­riza­tion for strikes like last week’s.

Af­ter years of prod­ding from some mem­bers of Congress, Pres­i­dent Obama had sent up his own AUMF pro­posal in 2015. The chief aim of that plan was to ex­plic­itly au­tho­rize the fight against the Is­lamic State. The ad­min­is­tra­tion had been wag­ing the fight under the 2001 AUMF, but many law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill said that was a stretch.

Once Mr. Obama sub­mit­ted his plan, though, Congress frac­tured. Some law­mak­ers said it was still too ex­pan­sive in its view of war, while oth­ers — chiefly GOP war hawks — said by lim­it­ing the use of ground troops it un­fairly tied the mil­i­tary and fu­ture pres­i­dents’ hands.

No ac­tion was taken.

It’s not clear whether the new bi­par­ti­san ef­fort can clear Congress, but Mr. Corker has promised a de­bate in com­mit­tee.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Led by Sen. Bob Corker, Ten­neessee Repub­li­can, the new Autho­riza­tion for Mil­i­tary Force would up­date and re­place 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

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