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Joint Op-Ed in The Hill: Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to limit further expansion of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

July 9, 2020
Weekly Columns

The following op-ed written by U.S. Representatives Anthony Brown (D-MD), Tom Cole (R-OK), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Don Bacon (R-NE) was originally published online by The Hill:

We come together as Republicans and Democrats to advance a common cause. We represent the north and the south, the coasts and the countryside. Some of us have served in Congress for nearly two decades — but for some of us, this term is our first in the House. Together, we are united by a core principle: Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution makes clear that the authority to declare war resides with Congress and Congress alone.

Today, we are introducing legislation based on our commitment to this fundamental belief. Our bill – the Limit on the Expansion of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act  – states that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) cannot be used as the basis for sending our military into any country where U.S. armed forces are not engaged in hostilities today, thus halting the ever-expanding use of this authorization.

In the nearly two decades since Sept. 11, 2001, this AUMF has been used to conduct military operations in dozens of countries. And each time this authorization was used as the legal justification for the deployment of American servicemembers into harm’s way in a new country, there was neither a vote in Congress — nor even a debate.

Today’s Congress is very different from the one that authorized the 2001 law, with only one of every six members of the House of Representatives who voted for it still in office today. The American people are long overdue for a public debate on the use of military force, and our bill helps make that happen.

Different from other efforts to address challenges with the AUMF, this bill is neither an attempt to repeal the authorization nor a statement on current or previous U.S. military actions. Additionally, we are not attempting to replace the AUMF or prohibit the use of force against any nation or organization.

Instead, this legislation would put constitutional guardrails on the further expansion of an almost two-decades-old authorization. Debating and enacting this bill would be an incremental and necessary step, one on which we have already achieved bipartisan agreement and one that could realistically happen in the short term.

This legislation would not impact our ability to defend our nation, our citizens, and our allies from foreign threats. If enacted, our military operations under the 2001 AUMF could continue in the countries where we are operating today. Our armed services will continue to train and assist our partners and allies in order to advance our shared security priorities. And our president will retain his Article II constitutional authority as commander in chief and will not be prohibited from taking action against any country or organization.

In the event that the president must act to defend the United States in a country where we are not operating today, he could do so under the terms laid out in the War Powers Resolution of 1973. The president would be required to notify Congress regarding the introduction of forces, giving Congress 60 days to debate and determine if an authorization for use of military force is appropriate.

We have arrived at our legislation through deliberate discussion. If each of us were to have acted independently, we likely would have crafted very different legislation. However, the nature of our democracy is that we must find common ground.

As such, we will continue to work closely with our colleagues as the U.S. House considers this legislation — and we will do so through regular debate and order, in line with the principles of this bill. These are not the kind of decisions that should be made without rigorous and transparent consideration.

We must do right by our constituents and the Constitution and fulfill our obligation to debate the grave decision of sending our servicemen and women into conflicts overseas. We are not determining where that debate will lead or which arguments will arise.

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Yet, we are unified in strongly stating that we must start by having the debate.

The original co-sponsors of the Limit on the Expansion of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act are Reps. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla).

Brown represents Maryland’s 4th District and is a member of the Armed Services Committee; Cole represents Oklahoma’s 4th District; Spanberger represents Virginia’s 7th District and serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Bacon represents Nebraska’s 2nd District and is a member of the Armed Services Committee.