House Committee Votes to Unwind President’s Power to Wage War

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Appropriations Committee Thursday approved an amendment that would repeal a 2001 authorization that has given presidents a free hand in waging wars in the Middle East without congressional approval.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to give the president authority to initiate war against al Qaeda and “associated forces.”

It has since been used to justify the war in Iraq and the fight against the Islamic State group.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D -Calif.., as the sole lawmaker to vote against the authorization in 2001, and she has fought to repeal the act ever since.

Her amendment was added by voice vote to the defense spending bill on Thursday.

Afterwards, as many of her fellow lawmakers applauded the vote. Lee tweeted, “Whoa. My amdt to sunset 2001 AUMF was adopted in DOD Approps markup! GOP & Dems agree: a floor debate & vote on endless war is long overdue.”

Despite the good feelings among committee members, it is unclear whether it will make it past the Senate and be included in a final version of a defense spending bill.

And historically, Congress has been of two minds over the AUMF. Some members have called for constraining the president’s actions; others have wanted to give him an even freer hand.

Lee said she has always been a member of the former group, explaining that she initially voted against the authorization because “I knew then it would provide a blank check to wage war anywhere, anytime, for any length by any president.

“The last two presidents have bombed the Middle East and Africa and President Trump is following down a similar path,” she continued. “The administration has authorized and launched airstrikes against Syria, sent more troops to fight ISIS and now wants to send thousands more troops to fight in Afghanistan.”

The vote has already been met with pushback by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Cory Fritz, deputy staff communications director for the committee, said Lee’s amendment should have been ruled out of order.

In a statement on Thursday, Fritz said that the provision changing the existing law was not the Appropriation Committee’s jurisdiction and furthermore, House rules state that “a provision changing existing law may not be reported in a general appropriation bill.”

According to Fritz, only the House Foreign Affairs committee has full authority to make any changes to AUMF.

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