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Hapless: GOP-Led Panel Approves Amendment That Would End Trump’s Authorization of Force Against Jihadist Groups

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 29: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) accepts the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award at the AIDSWatch 2016 Positive Leadership Award Reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on February 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)
Rep. Barbara Lee (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Republican-led House panel, in a rare show of bipartisanship, has voted to approve an amendment introduced by a Democrat to revoke the 2001 law that grants the president the authority to wage war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates without the consent of Congress, a move that restricts President Donald Trump’s ability to fight terror.

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee adopted the new amendment to rescind the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) by a voice vote, as part of the $658 billion U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spending bill.

The only lawmaker to oppose the measure was Kay Granger (R-TX), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, arguing that the policy has no place in a spending bill, reports the Hill.

Passed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. homeland, American presidents have since used the AUMF to justify military action against various jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda foe the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

ISIS was originally an al-Qaeda offshoot, but the terrorist group broke away from Osama bin Laden’s organization in 2014.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the measure, which does have some bipartisan support on the other side of the Capitol from Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

The amendment would repeal “the overly broad 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force, after a period of 8 months after the enactment of this act, giving the administration and Congress sufficient time to decide what measures should replace it,” said the California Democrat.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned its appropriations counterpart’s authority to pass such a measure, saying the panel does not have jurisdiction.

“House Rules state that ‘a provision changing existing law may not be reported in a general appropriation bill.’ The Foreign Affairs Committee has sole jurisdiction over Authorizations for the Use of Military Force,” argued Cory Fritz, the Foreign Affairs panel’s deputy staff director for communications, reports the Hill.

The measure would revoke the AUMF 240 days after the defense appropriations bill is enacted by the full Congress, forcing U.S. lawmakers to pass a new authorization in the interim to continue combating ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their respective affiliates.

Congress has been unable to pass a new AUMF to combat ISIS and al-Qaeda.

After approving the defense spending legislation Thursday, the appropriations committee sent the bill to the House floor for a vote.

Seemingly surprised, Democrat Congresswoman Lee welcomed the approval of her amendment, blasting the AUMF as “a blank check to wage war anywhere, at any time, and for any length.”

Rep. Lee seized the opportunity to condemn President Trump as “erratic” and inexperienced.

“This issue is more urgent given the erratic behavior and inexperience of our current Commander-in-Chief,” declared the lawmaker. “No president should have a blank check for endless war, least of all President Donald Trump.”

The Independent points out that some Republicans supported the Democrat congresswoman’s amendment, including Reps. Chris Stewart from Utah, a former Air Force pilot and Tom Cole from Oklahoma, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labour, Health, and Human Services.

“We are at war against an enemy that did not exist in a place that we did not expect to fight,” declared Congressman Cole. “How an AUMF can be stretched 16 years, certainly before I was in Congress, is beyond me.”

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the AUMF has been used more than 37 times in 14 nations since U.S. lawmakers adopted it in 2001 to justify military action, “including non-lethal military activities such as detentions and military trials.”

Former President Barack Obama invoked the authorization measure 19 times, including to justify U.S. military efforts against ISIS and its offshoots. George W. Bush used the AUMF on 18 occasions.

President Trump has removed restrictions put in place by his predecessor, granting the Pentagon the authority to make Afghanistan battlefield decisions on its own, including setting troop levels.

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