WASHINGTON ― The Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal to repeal the sweeping authorizations for war passed by Congress in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The first effort at curtailing the executive branch’s war-making powers in 15 years went down on a 61-36 vote. A substantial number of Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the measure, which is significant given Congress’ years-long reluctance to go on record on the matter of war.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the author of the amendment, threatened to hold up passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets forth the Pentagon’s budget, unless the Senate voted on repealing the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) for the wars against al Qaeda, the so-called Islamic State and the Taliban. The repeal would not have taken effect until six months after the amendment’s passage, however, to give Congress time to pass a new authorization for the use of military force.
“I don’t think one generation should bind another generation to war,” Paul said during an interview Wednesday on MSNBC. “I don’t think that the resolution in 2001 has anything to do with the seven different wars we’re involved with now.”
White House legislative director Marc Short said Monday the administration does not support the push for a new authorization for the use of military force because it already has adequate legal authority to wage war against terror groups based on the 2001 authorization.
The Afghanistan War is the nation’s longest-running war. American troops have been stationed in the Middle Eastern country for more than 16 years, with no end to the mission in sight. President Donald Trump signed off on sending an additional 4,000 troops there last month.
The opposition to Paul’s amendment was bipartisan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued the 2001 war authorization is still needed because al Qaeda is not yet defeated.
“Why would we vote to repeal our authority to defeat al Qaeda? All that we do to defeat al Qaeda and ISIL rests on this AUMF,” McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor, referring to another name for the Islamic State militant group.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he worried Paul’s amendment would “be read in many places as a signal the Senate has essentially declared in six months we are going to de-authorize military actions.”
Wednesday’s vote also drove a wedge between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who joined forces to draft a new war authorization earlier this year. Flake said he wanted to move the effort through the normal committee process. Kaine, however, supported Paul’s amendment “as a way to accelerate” debate and markup of a new authorization for the use of military force in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.