WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are advancing legislation that will give Congress more control over U.S. military activity, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said Thursday.
Republicans and Democrats have argued for years that the war authorizations Congress passed after Sept. 11, 2001, have since been overstretched by successive presidents and that Congress must reassert its war-making powers.
At a hearing on the administration’s post-Islamic State group strategy for Syria, Corker said the committee would soon hold the markup Corker promised in October for a replacement Authorization for Use of Military Force. During a markup, a bill is debated and amended by the committee members.
“I will say that there’s a lot of progress being made on the AUMF, and I think we’re going to be in a place, really soon, to have a markup,” Corker said. “And we’re doing it in a way to engender support and input from members on both sides of the aisle.”
Negotiations have been underway to reconcile Corker’s ideas with a replacement AUMF introduced in 2017 by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. The Kaine-Flake bill would specifically cover ISIS, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and it would expire after five years. Congress would have to grant permission to include new groups.
“We’re having behind-the-scenes discussions to narrow the points of difference,” Kaine told Defense News. “The goal is something Sen. Flake and I would feel very comfortable with, joined with others, to keep it intact and not let there be too much moving of it.”
Kaine said he also felt the markup might happen soon. The hope is to win a strong, bipartisan vote in committee in order to achieve the same effect on the Senate floor. Once Senate lawmakers attain a compromise, Kaine said he will reach out to House lawmakers about their proposals.
Saber-rattling over North Korea missile tests and the October deaths of four U.S. service members in unheralded anti-terrorism operations in Niger have brought new focus on the need to update the military force authorizations.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both testified last year that if lawmakers do adopt new military force authorizations, they must not include geographic limits or time constraints, given the evolving nature of the threat of foreign terrorists.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.