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As Corker-Kaine AUMF Denounced as 'Recipe for Disaster,' Merkley Proposes Plan to Curb President's War Powers

"The way to stop endless #ForeverWar is not for Congress to abandon its constitutional responsibility."

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is crafting a new AUMF as an alternative to the measure put forth by his colleagues in the Senate Foreign Committee. (Photo: Senate Democrats/flickr/cc)

Anti-war advocates and progressive national security experts are praising Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-Ore.) challenge to a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that critics warn would expand the executive branch's military authority and "further entrench the United States in endless war."

Ahead of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss an AUMF proposal introduced last month by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Merkley, a member of the committee, released a statement teasing his forthcoming alternative proposal—a move that was celebrated online:

Merkley thanked those "who have pushed to renew this critical debate," acknowledging that the AUMF that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks "has been stretched beyond recognition by three consecutive administrations," but emphasized that he has "fundamental concerns with the approach laid out in the AUMF the committee will be considering."

"The framers of our Constitution did not intend for the president to have unchecked powers to wage war," Merkley added. "They gave the power to declare war to Congress."

The senator said he plans to introduce an AUMF that:

  • maintains Congress's constitutional role in authorizing war;
  • requires congressional authorization for expanded military action;
  • limits the use of U.S. ground forces;
  • establishes a 3-year sunset;
  • adheres to international law;
  • requires transparency; and
  • repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

In addition to Merkley, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF—have announced their opposition to the Corker-Kaine AUMF (pdf), which would replace the 2001 AUMF and repeal the 2002 AUMF, but also grant the executive branch "uninterrupted authority to use all necessary and appropriate force in the current and continuing armed conflict against the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and associated forces."

Although the Corker-Kaine AUMF claims it "establishes rigorous congressional over- sight and improves transparency," anti-war advocates and critical lawmakers believe the measure would effectively be "another blank check" to the president to wage war worldwide.

Lee and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on Wednesday sent a letter (pdf) signed by more than 50 members of Congress to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to demand that any new military authorization include a sunset clause or mandatory reauthorization; repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs; be tailored so it is "mission-specific"; and include provisions to promote transparency and accountability.

"The Senate needs to go back to the drawing board," Lee declared. "While I support a robust debate on any new AUMF, I fear that the Corker-Kaine proposal would further limit congressional oversight of our perpetual wars."

"Replacing one blank check with another even broader one," she concluded, "is a recipe for disaster."

Anti-war activists continue to issue similar declarations:

A group of organizations including the ACLU, Brennan Center for Justice, Peace Action, Public Citizen, and Win Without War, also sent a letter to the committee on Wednesday, warning that the Corker-Kaine measure "is likely to cause lasting and colossal harm to the U.S. Constitution, lead to irreversible damage to civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, gravely harm U.S. national security and prosperity, and cede breathtaking and unnecessary powers to the president without any meaningful gains in transparency or oversight."

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