WASHINGTON (CN) – Sen. Rand Paul’s bid to repeal congressional authorization for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to get off the ground Wednesday, but more than a third of lawmakers showed their support for the Kentucky Republican’s move.
Paul attempted the maneuver as an amendment to the defense-spending bill under debate by the Senate, saying it is past time for Congress to reconsider the authorization for the now 16-year-old wars.
“Look, we’ve got problems here at home,” Paul said on the floor before the vote. “These wars are costing trillions of dollars. They’re unauthorized. We haven’t voted on them, and I say, look, let’s pay attention to some of the problems we have here at home.”
The Senate instead voted 61-36 Wednesday on a procedural motion to put Paul’s amendment to the side, effectively killing it.
Democrats comprised the bulk of the vote to support Paul’s amendment, with Sens. Mike Lee and Dean Heller joining Paul for the Republicans. Another 13 Democrats meanwhile voted in favor of putting Paul’s amendment to the side.
Lawmakers who supported Paul cited concerns about the constitutionality of having an authorization that is loosely defined and that has extended into its second decade. Known as an Authorization for Use of Military Force or AUMF, the measure passed three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and allows the president to go to war against people and countries responsible for the attacks as well as “associated forces.”
That loose definition has expanded as the wars have gone on to include a host of terrorist groups. Critics like Paul have said its ambiguity allows the president to take over Congress’ constitutionally outlined role in declaring war.
“I don’t know why my colleagues would vote to continue to give a basically open blank slate to any commander in chief,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., told reporters Wednesday. “I wanted a new AUMF under President Obama. So we should be doing our job and putting out these parameters for anyone who’s in the White House.”
Those who opposed brining Paul’s amendment for a full vote said the idea had not gone through the proper process, with a full debate and markup period. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said many senators would probably support a new war authorization if given the chance. He warned that Paul’s plan to force a vote would rush them into a vote without a clear path forward.
“Repealing the 2001-2002 AUMFs without simultaneously passing a new authorization would be premature, it would be irresponsible and it would threaten the U.S. national security and it would inhibit our democracy-building efforts abroad,” McCain said on the Senate floor before the vote.