WASHINGTON — A GOP-controlled House committee unexpectedly agreed Thursday to a proposal by a strongly anti-war Democrat to force a debate on a new war authorization.
The proposal would cut off the sweeping 2001 authorization to use military force against terrorism. The move by California Democrat Barbara Lee unexpectedly won voice vote approval by the House Appropriations Committee as it debated a Pentagon funding bill.
Lee wants to force a debate on a new war authorization, and some Republicans agree that debate is a good idea.
A surprised Lee took to Twitter to claim victory.
"Whoa. My amdt to sunset 2001 AUMF was adopted," Lee tweeted, using Washington code for authorization of military force. "GOP & Dems agree: a floor debate & vote on endless war is long overdue."
Lee's amendment would repeal the 2001 law — which has been broadly interpreted to permit military operations beyond those contemplated at the time — 240 days after the bill is enacted, which Lee said in a statement "would allow plenty of time for Congress to finally live up to its constitutional obligation to debate and vote on any new AUMF."
The proposal has a long way to go before becoming law. For starters, it would likely be knocked out of the spending bill on procedural grounds during floor debate since spending bills technically aren't supposed to carry policy language.
The 2001 force authorization was enacted in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks to give the president greater powers to respond. It was very broadly drafted to authorize "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." A separate authorization for the war in Iraq was enacted just before the 2003 invasion.
"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," Lee said.