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President Joe Biden is backing a new congressional effort to replace the legal authorizations that presidents since George W.
Several past presidential administrations have relied on two authorizations for the use of military force — known as AUMFs — to carry out military operations from Iraq to Afghanistan to Somalia to Syria.
However, presidents still said they still held the ultimate authority to wield the military as needed in their role as commander in chief.
Concerned about the ever-widening use of force based on these authorizations, lawmakers from both parties have for years wanted to repeal the current AUMFs and replace them with updated and more limited versions, but rarely received enough congressional or White House support.
“Congress has a responsibility to not only vote to authorize new military action, but to repeal old authorizations that are no longer necessary,” Kaine said in a statement.
The move angered a bipartisan group of senators and representatives because Biden didn’t seek congressional approval for those strikes — though he didn’t invoke the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs.
“We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a Friday statement to Politico later posted to Twitter.
We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.
Even a well-crafted AUMF cannot stop the president from using military force Experts and activists cite two main concerns about what comes next after the White House’s announcement.
First, it’s unclear that a new authorization will actually limit what Biden might want the military to do in the region.
Back in January, four experts wrote in Just Security about how to do precisely that — namely that the authorization should end after no more than three years; specify the group the US is fighting against and for what purpose; and explicitly say that America isn’t authorized to strike any other organizations or other countries than those specifically named.
“Repealing the AUMFs only to replace them is not an end to forever wars,” said Stephen Miles, executive director of the progressive group Win Without War.
He leaned on his Article II powers in the Constitution, which names the president as the commander in chief, thereby giving him ultimate authority over all military matters.
“I directed this military action consistent with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct United States foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive,” he wrote to congressional leaders in a letter last week.
This means a more specific, limited AUMF might not necessarily lead Biden to always seek Congress’s approval for a military attack.