Three days after September 11, 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) became the only member of both houses of Congress to vote against the Authorized Use of Military Force legislation that authorized use of military force following the 9/11 attacks. Lee did not oppose military action, but was concerned about how the broad language would be interpreted in the years to follow. Lee cautioned they should be “careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.”
The 60 words that comprise the AUMF have since been used to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries, including not just the war in Iraq, but also the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
These operations were allowed due to the broad language Rep. Lee cautioned against:
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee adopted Rep. Lee’s amendment that would repeal the AUMF after the passage of the Defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018. The move was surprising, considering Rep. Lee’s reputation as being one of the most liberal members of the House. The House Appropriations Committee, like every committee, is majority Republican, and all but one (Republican Kay Granger of Texas) voted in favor of repealing the 2001 AUMF.
The amendment adoption comes at a time of growing concern over President Donald Trump’s competency as Commander-in-Chief and rising tensions with Syria, North Korea, and others.
Whoa. My amdt to sunset 2001 AUMF was adopted in DOD Approps markup! GOP & Dems agree: a floor debate & vote on endless war is long overdue. pic.twitter.com/FS8LfYWo5J
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 29, 2017
Rep. Lee released a statement praising her colleagues for their bipartisan support stating:
“At long last, I am pleased that my Democratic and Republican colleagues supported my effort to put an end to the overly broad blank check for war that is the 2001 AUMF. If passed into law as part of the DOD bill, it would repeal the 2001 AUMF eight months after enactment of this legislation. That would allow plenty of time for Congress to finally live up to its constitutional obligation to debate and vote on any new AUMF. It is far past time for Congress to do its job and for the Speaker to allow a debate and vote on this vital national security issue. I am glad that this amendment passed in a bipartisan manner and I look forward to continuing to work to finally have the debate and vote that our service members and our nation deserves.”
In 2016, Lee offered an amendment that would allow no funds in the House bill be used for 2001 AUMF, but it failed to pass.