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April 17, 2018
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation to replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) that Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump have used to wage military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. The new AUMF would allow the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and designated associated forces," but it requires the White House to notify Congress about any military action undertaken using this authorization within 48 hours. Congress has 60 days to object or tacitly sign off on the use of force.

There is mounting support in Congress to revisit the aging war-powers authorizations, as more moderate lawmakers join liberals and libertarians in their concern over what three presidents have largely taken as carte blanche for military action. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a cosponsor of the legislation, points out that only 22 senators and fewer than 150 House members were in Congress when it approved the 2001 AUMF.

But this Corker-Kaine proposal, which is scheduled to get a committee vote next week, has tepid support from GOP leaders, and it isn't clear it has the votes to move forward. The new AUMF, billed as a compromise, faces criticism because it doesn't automatically expire, instead giving Congress a chance to review the authorization every four years. "For too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check to wage war," Kaine said in a statement. "Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war." Corker said it gives president "the flexibility to be successful that they now have, but it also keeps Congress in the loop in having the ability to stop it." Peter Weber