62 Words | 16 Years | 4.6 Million Lives
It is Time for a New AUMF
Following the unprecedented September 11th attack on America, Congress took swift action. A piece of legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed both chambers of Congress in just three days to dedicate troops for the protection of our nation. Since that day, approximately 3 million veterans have served in our nation’s Armed Forces and more than 6,901 have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Today, we have 1.7 million active duty members serving the United States military. All together, 4.7 million lives were forever changed by 62 words tucked into a one page document written 16 years ago.
Since that day, the AUMF has been used as justification for countless military operations overseas, without Congressional oversight or debate. It is powerful and right that we passed this amendment immediately before our 241st Independence Day; I was proud to join with the other members of the House Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans, in supporting an amendment that will establish a sunset date for the AUMF. Unfortunately, after passage of this amendment, House Republican leadership have signaled that they will intervene and strip the language from the final bill, despite the broad bipartisan support it received. This amendment would allow our country’s defense strategy to have proper accountability and ends the blank check we have been using to deploy our forces anytime, anywhere in the world without Congressional authorization. The sunset provision included in the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations bill would end the blanket AUMF eight months after the legislation becomes law; continued use our forces after that date would require a new authorization by Congress. The Speaker has said there is a time and place for this debate, but that this amendment isn’t the proper way. That may be so, but my question to the Speaker would be “if not now, when?” It has already been far too long since Congress reasserted its proper role in the decision of war and peace.
To be clear, this amendment would not mean we are done fighting terrorism. This is not a George W. Bush banner proclaiming “mission accomplished”. It is designed to order Congress to roll up its sleeves and get to work in the manner that the Constitution requires to establish a coherent national policy. It acknowledges that we have now engaged in numerous military operations in the war against terrorism that were never imagined in 2001. While we are still fighting the Taliban, we are now engaged in an effort to eradicate ISIS, a terrorist organization that did not exist in its current form in 2001. The Trump Administration is now discussing deploying even more troops to Syria, a country that no one envisioned would be a war zone in 2001 when this authorization was signed.
The American people deserve the opportunity to have their voices heard. The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. We owe our voters their Constitutional right to have their elected officials debate and approve where and when our brave men and women in uniform are deployed.
I sit on the House Defense Appropriations Committee and previously sat on the House Armed Services Committee. I take my Constitutional responsibility for the men and women who serve our country past and present very seriously. As I am briefed by Secretary Mattis and our top defense commanders, I understand that the risks we face in the Middle East are not ending and that the situation continues to escalate. I can no longer return home to Ohio and look in the eyes of the veterans and active duty servicemember in my district and know that Congress is refusing to perform its full Constitutional duty.
Every member of Congress owes accountability to our country when we ask our brave men and women to risk their lives for our democracy and security. We cannot shirk from this discussion by continuing to extend the AUMF passed just three days after the worst terrorist attack in history.
Now I know that this is a tough debate and difficult conversation. But it is one Congress must have.
Learn more about Congressman Tim Ryan at https://timryan.house.gov/