War on Terror

House of Representatives Votes to Rescind Authorization for Our Endless Wars

It's not likely to get anywhere in the Senate, but consider it progress.

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Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 war in Afghanistan, is finally making some headway in her efforts to convince her fellow lawmakers that it's time to rescind the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a congressional measure which permits military action against any terrorist group connected to the 9/11 attacks. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that includes an amendment from Lee that repeals the AUMF 240 days after the bill becomes law.

If this bill passed the Senate as written, it would end the authorization behind America's current military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Lee's amendment was attached to HR2740, a spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill passed the House 226-203, almost completely along party lines. Every Republican voted no (as did seven Democrats). Note that this doesn't necessarily mean that all Republicans in the House oppose Lee's proposal. It takes up less than a single page in a 600-plus page bill full of spending plans, so they might have other reasons for voting no.

Lee's amendment is not likely to survive when it reaches the Republican-controlled Senate. But it's still notable that there was enough support for it to survive the House, which has now voted to end the blanket authorization that has served mostly to further destabilize the Middle East, cost Americans lives, and fuel new tribal and sectarian conflicts.

Beyond the repeal of the AUMF, HR2740 also states that nothing in the bill authorizes the use of military force against Iran, a provision which is especially relevant now that the Trump administration is rattling sabers in Iran's direction.

The House version of the bill also calls for the removal of any military forces from Yemen that are not engaged in the fight against al Qaeda forces.

Lee put out a statement celebrating the success of her repeal effort in the House:

Two years ago, this same amendment was passed out of the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis but was undemocratically stripped out by House Speaker Paul Ryan. The passage of this spending bill with the 2001 AUMF repeal included is a historic and timely step forward in reasserting Congress' constitutional authority on matters of war and peace.

With the Administration continuing to dangerously escalate tensions with Iran and publicly floating utilizing the 2001 AUMF as a legal basis for military action against Iran, this vote sends an important signal to the Administration that it cannot take military action against Iran without prior Congressional approval. This is a stark reminder of the dangers of leaving this overly broad authorization on the books.

Congress has been missing in action for too long. The 2001 AUMF has been cited as the legal justification for military action 41 times in 18 countries – and those are only the unclassified instances. We cannot afford to let the Trump Administration utilize this blank check for endless war as the legal basis for a disastrous war with Iran.

Lee's proposal is buried all the way down at page 373, under the header Section 9025.

This has been updated to correct that Lee's vote was against the use of military force in Afghanistan.

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  1. “It’s not likely to get anywhere in the Senate, but consider it progress.”

    Let me guess – it’s just an unfortunate coincidence that the Dems never repealed these authorizations while they controlled Congress and the White House? They just forgot to get around to it – simply a regrettable accident.

    1. They had more important things on their mind. Like getting re-elected.

    2. Let me guess- you’re gonna just paper over the fact that the Republicans will block this by doing some whataboutism right?

      What a waste.

      1. A whataboutism argument complaining about whataboutism in response to a whataboutism comment. Wow.

  2. Just remember, under Obama the Democrats supported the notion that the president does not need Congressional approval to commit acts of war.

    1. A totally unexpected turn of events changed everything!

    2. If “Orange Man Bad” is the only reason we’ll find a way to limit executive authority, I’m willing to live with that. I don’t require 100% pure motives for actions that are unambigiously positive, like repealing or sunsetting the AUMF.

      1. The problem is that (like their Republican counterparts) they support certain kinds of useful legislation only when Congress is divided – when they control Congress and the White House the flow of good legislation somehow slows to a trickle.

        They want to be able to boast of their “voting record” – and hopefully fool the compilers of Congressional scorecards – by voting for stuff only when it can’t pass, so the supporters of the stuff they vote for can praise them and the opponents will have no reason to blame them. Politicians’ Nirvana.

    3. Correct me if I am wrong but Obama asked for authorization for action from the Congress after the Syrians used gas on civilians. He was told he already had it and so the members would not have to go on record as supporting any additional military action.

      What the House did is late, but still good and there is not reason not to pass it in the Senate. The likelihood is that Congress would support military action if something truly happened. Can you think of any real case where our interests were threaten that Congress would not authorize action?

  3. This is fantastic news, and I hope the Senate gets behind it.

    The AUMF isn’t only the justification for various wars. It was also used as a credible legal defense of everything from torture to warrantless wiretapping:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_(2001%E2%80%932007)#Authorization_for_the_Use_of_Military_Force

    Fuck the AUMF, the horse it rode in on, and may nobody ever give the President that kind of power ever again.

    P.S. The AUMF is another example of people pretending that because they don’t like what something means, it must mean something other than what it says.

    To be clear, the AUMF gives the president the authorization to attack, invade, or kill anyone he wants anywhere in the world so long as the president determines that they were somehow affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. If we don’t like that, we can–like dishonest stupid people–pretend it doesn’t say something because we don’t like it or we can repeal or sunset the filthy piece of shit.

    P.P.S. A horrible bill like the AUMF can only be made more horrible for not having a sunset clause–and the AUMF doesn’t have one. At the very least, they should put a sunset clause on it . . . in the distant future if need be. Just somebody tell me that this bipartisan nightmare will someday be over. If you don’t think Barack Obama should have been free to try, convict, and assassinate American citizens without a trial, much less a conviction, then blame Obama but blame the AUMF, too.

    P.P.P.S If you think everyone who points out that Obama executed an American citizen without a trial and killed more innocent children with drone attacks than Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook elementary is a racist, then you’re part of the problem. How’s it feel? How ’bout pushing for a repeal of the AUMF instead?

    1. ” At the very least, they should put a sunset clause on it ”
      It ends when Al-Qaeda does.

      So is that another example of people pretending that because they don’t like what something means, it must mean something other than what it says.

      1. “It ends when Al-Qaeda does.”

        So who decides that? Given than any couple of rag heads can record a video with Al-Qaeda stickers on their beat-up AKs, and that what they are ranting about is mostly just an ideology, which may or may not be a credible threat, how can you ever “end” that?

        1. “So who decides that?”

          The correct answer is “The President” according to the AUMF.

          “Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

          (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to 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, 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.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Terrorists

          If the President decides that you were associated with any organization that has ever been affiliated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban in anyway, then he can go after you anywhere in the world–forever.

          Some associations are more credible than others. ISIS, for instance, was at one time affiliated with Al Qaeda. Any President could have invaded Syria on the authority of the AUMF on that basis. The only reason we didn’t was because a) it was unpopular and b) it was strategically daunting. But the president has all the authorization from Congress that the Constitution requires to invade Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world where he says Al Qaeda or the Taliban is a threat.

          Even if Congress put a sunset clause on it 20 years into the future, for goodness’ sake, that blank check needs to be rescinded already. It never should have been written in the first place.

          1. he determines

            So what you’re saying is, if we elect a woman as our next president, the AUMF becomes null and void?

            Shit.

            1. Not worth having a female president to end the AUMF… LOL

    2. Repeal, hell! The AUMF should have long ago been challenged in and overturned by the federal courts. The sole power to declare war is one of Congress’s most important powers, and cannot validly be delegated to the President or anyone else.

  4. The United States did not invade Iraq in 2001, nor did the vote to invade Iraq reach unanimous approval aside from Barbara Lee. She was the only person who voted against the original AUMF in Afghanistan in 2001.

    Obviously the Iraq invasion was much more tenuously connected to the war on terror and enjoyed much less popular support, since the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was in Afghanistan.

  5. Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 war in Iraq

    There wasn’t actually a 2001 war in Iraq just FYI.

    1. Welcome to the Reason comments. Please leave truth at the door.

  6. The fact that it is not going anywhere in the Senate is why it was passed. If there was any chance of it passing, it would have never come to a vote much less gotten out of the House. See the Republican House’s endless votes to repeal Obamacare as an example of this sort of symbolic vote to satisfy the boobs in the base who are dumb enough to believe anyone actually means it.

    1. When Republicans do it they are cowardly hypocrites. When Democrats do it they are constitutional warriors speaking truth to power. It’s apparently not even necessary to know which AUMF is being symbolically opposed before the hagiographies begin.

  7. I support limiting the powers given the president by this AUMF, but can we not do so by attaching amendments to totally unrelated bills such as “a spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education”?

    1. Yes they could. And if they were serious about doing it and not just wanting to grandstand, that is exactly what they would do.

      1. Maybe they could, but I am just a dumb civilian, and would prefer that legislation is distinct and separate. I guess I just don’t care about any venerable and traditional bullshit.

        Or maybe they should just bundle everything into one massive “bill” and hold one vote. That would free up more of congress for running for president, right?

  8. It takes up less than a single page in a 600-plus page bill full of spending plans, so they might have other reasons for voting no.

    But those other reasons are irrelevant because of this one piece.

    1. Actually they might be. The money we could save on foreign wars would probably more than make up for whatever spending we were going to do domestically.

      Depending on what I’d find upon closer inspection, there’s a chance I’d take that deal.

  9. worthless action in Congress … Amashing.

  10. Amash vs. Lee: looks like the contest is on for the most fatuous, pointless grandstanding in Congress.

    I think it’s great what these people are doing: not only are they helping dragging the reputation of Congress through the mud, they also prevent Congress from doing stuff that might actually hurt people! Keep up the good work!

  11. Better if the votes against “a spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education” were based on the lack of constitutional authority for any of those cabinet level positions.

    (yeah, yeah, I know; general welfare. Commerce. FYTW. Jefferson’s personal letters. Whatever)

  12. The real problem is they are trying to rescind specific missions rather than declaring that the country has to declare war before we send troops into battle.

  13. Why doesn’t Congress pass every law they pass with a Sunset clause in it?

    1. Because then lobbyists wouldn’t have to bribe them to repeal it just like they bribed them to enact it.

  14. […] unfortunately emboldened by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Although the House voted to repeal it last week, it is unlikely to clear the Senate. Passed three days after the attacks on […]

  15. […] unfortunately emboldened by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Although the House voted to repeal it last week, it is unlikely to clear the Senate. Passed three days after the attacks on […]

  16. […] unfortunately emboldened by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Although the House voted to repeal it last week, it is unlikely to clear the Senate. Passed three days after the attacks on […]

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