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Bipartisan Coalition of Lawmakers Introduces Legislation to Restore Congressional War Powers

The “Limit on the Expansion of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act,” H.R. 7500, would reassert Congress’ Constitutional role in the declaration of war.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Francis Rooney (R-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Jared Golden (D-ME) and Rob Woodall (R-GA) introduced bipartisan legislation to establish limits on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

The “Limit on the Expansion of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act,” H.R. 7500, would reassert Congress’ Constitutional role in the declaration of war. For nearly two decades, the 2001 AUMF, which passed in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks, has been used by three presidents as the legal justification for the deployment of American servicemembers into new countries, each time without a debate or vote in Congress.

Since the initial operations by the United States and our allies in Afghanistan, the 2001 AUMF has been used to authorize the use of force in at least 19 countries. This legislation would provide new guardrails on its use, limiting existing authorization to countries with ongoing hostilities. In the event a President acts to defend the United States in a country where we are not operating today, the executive branch would be required to seek Congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The President would retain other authorities, such as train and assist, to continue working with partners and allies to address terrorist threats to the United States.

“As someone who was deployed to Iraq, I understand the cost of war on a personal level. For too long, Congress has abdicated its Constitutional responsibilities. We will continue to counter ISIS, international terrorism other national security threats, but we cannot do so with a nearly two decades old authorization that doesn’t recognize the current landscape,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “We have a responsibility to the men and women who wear the uniform to ensure the authorized missions they execute are targeted, defined and achievable. This debate is long overdue.”

“After decades of prolonged military conflicts overseas with little congressional input, Congress needs to reclaim its authority under the U.S. Constitution to debate our military engagement abroad. Our current process is broken, and this bipartisan bill builds the foundation for reaffirming the Article I powers of Congress,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. “Members of Congress — as the voices of those they represent — should expect to be held accountable for their votes to send U.S. servicemen and women off to war. This much-needed legislation would make sure the nearly 20-year-old AUMF does not continue to expand for the purposes of justifying deployments of U.S. servicemembers into new foreign countries. This legislation — supported equally by Democrats and Republicans — lays the foundation for replacing the 2001 AUMF while also protecting our ability to combat terrorism threats around the world and keep American families safe. Our discussions about the future of authorizations for military force must acknowledge the range of threats that exist. We will be in a better position to engage in these conversations after we pause the expansion of the 2001 AUMF — thus reducing Executive Branch reliance on an outdated authorization — and acknowledge that our existing authorizations are in desperate need of reforms.”

“As granted by the Constitution of the United States, the authority to declare war resides with Congress and Congress alone. This bill is neither an attempt to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force nor meant to be a statement on current or previous U.S. military actions,” said Congressman Tom Cole. “The legislation brings back to Congress the authority to deploy forces and declare war. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation.”

“It is long overdue that Congress assert its authority and responsibility for authorizing the use of military force overseas,” said Congressman Don Bacon.  “The Constitution is clear. If it’s important enough to put our men and women in harm’s way for months and years at a time, then members of Congress need to go on the record with a vote.” 

Since 9/11, more than 2.7 million troops service members have served on 5.4 million deployments across the world– more than 700,000 of those who deployed did so multiple times. Federal spending on post-9/11 military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries is estimated to exceed $6.4 trillion. In March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have cost each US taxpayer more than $7,600.

“The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs are outdated and do not meet the realities of today’s conflicts.  Congress must reassert its constitutional duty to clearly define military action against adversaries and keep our country safe,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta. “Our bipartisan legislation will allow us to better meet our obligation to provide our service members with clear guidance, and also our constituents with the assurance that it’s the responsibility of Congress to determine and define the use of our military force around the world.”

“Placing the brave men and women of our military in harms way is one of the most difficult decisions that can be made by any government. It is the Constitutional duty of Congress to authorize use of force,” said Congressman Francis Rooney. “We should not operate under a nearly two decade authorization that has been used by multiple administrations to justify action without renewed Congressional authorization.”

“Over the past few decades, Congress has slowly ceded power to the Executive, forfeiting our Constitutional duties and dodging accountability for the sake of expediency,” said Congressman Rob Woodall. “Requiring Congress to approve a new authorization for the use of military force for any future engagement isn’t a partisan issue, but rather a Constitutional one. Our addressing it is long, long overdue.”

“The most solemn responsibility of Congress is the decision to send our men and women into harm's way,” said Congressman Jason Crow. "My military career started as an enlisted soldier and I will never forget being Private Crow as I make decisions in Washington. For too long, we’ve heard the same political argument that the time is not right to have the hard discussions about our foreign military involvements. This bill reasserts Congress' constitutional authority over matters of war and diplomacy. We must prevent another endless war.”

“I’m honored to join my colleagues in a long-overdue bipartisan effort to establish limits on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). We need to have an updated AUMF that establishes clear constitutional boundaries and restores congressional oversight for U.S. military engagements,” said Congressman Ted Yoho. “Our brave men and women in uniform are the finest fighting force in the world and will continue to face all threats to our national security. However, we must clearly define our goals and move away from waging never-ending wars anywhere in the world.”

“This country sends young men and women to war using an AUMF that was authorized almost twenty years ago and has not been revisited since. But the AUMF was never meant to be a permanent authorization for perpetual, global conflict,” said Congressman Jared Golden. “I served under this AUMF in Afghanistan and I believe it’s well past time for Congress to reclaim its authority and fulfill its responsibility when sending our military into conflict.”

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