U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have filed legislation to give the president clear authority to use military force against al-Qaida, the Taliban and ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The measure would replace similar legislation Congress approved in 2001 and 2002 that gives the president clear authority to use military force against al Qaeda and Iraq, and would put to rest any questions as to whether the administration has the authority to target terrorists wherever they are today.
“Terrorists groups such as ISIS pose a serious threat to our national security,” Nelson said. “This bill will give the president the clear legal authority he needs to target these groups in Iraq, Syria or anywhere else they may be hiding.”
Debate over the president’s authority to use military force in a foreign country without first going to Congress resurfaced this week after President Trump launched a barrage of missiles against several chemical weapons facilities in Syria. While Nelson has said publicly that he supported the president’s decision to strike the facilities in Syria, he also said that the president should have sought Congressional approval before launching the strike.
The legislation, which Nelson and others filed late Monday, would end debate over the president’s authority to launch strikes against al-Qaida, the Taliban and ISIS anywhere in the world without Congressional approval. It would not, however, provide the president with the same blanket authority to conduct strikes against non-terrorists targets, such as the strikes this past weekend in Syria.
Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, filed similar legislation in 2014 after ISIS beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The newly-filed bill, known as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018,” contains the following key provisions:
- Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF): Authorizes the executive to use all necessary and appropriate force against al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and designated associated forces. The legislation does not provide authority for military action against any nation state.
- Quadrennial Congressional Review: Establishes a process for Congress to review the AUMF every four years without risking a lapse in authorization. On January 20, 2022, and again every four years thereafter, the president must submit to Congress a proposal to repeal, modify, or leave in place the AUMF. For a 60-day period beginning on that same date, legislation to repeal or modify the AUMF will qualify for expedited consideration, guaranteeing the opportunity for both debate and a vote. If Congress fails to enact new legislation, the existing authorities remain in place.
- Congressional Oversight and Transparency:
- Associated Forces and Foreign Countries: Requires the president to report to Congress on all new designated associated forces, the basis for those designations, and each new country in which the United States is using military force pursuant to the AUMF.
- Congressional Review: The president may immediately use force against a new associated force or in a new country pursuant to the new AUMF, but within 48 hours, must notify Congress. Such a notification triggers a 60-day period during which legislation to remove the authority to use military force against the new associated force or in the new foreign country will qualify for expedited consideration. If Congress takes no action, the existing authorities remain in place.
- Repeal of the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs: Repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs after the new AUMF has been in place for 120 days.
A copy of the legislation is available here.