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Niger Attack Reinvigorates Calls For Congress to Debate War Authorization

by Countable | 10.24.17

What’s the story?

The October 4 attack on U.S. forces in Niger that left four American service members dead has reinvigorated calls for debate in Congress around war authorization. Bipartisan attempts to force debate have increased since the beginning of the current administration. Now Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has joined the voices urging that the issue be given time for open floor debate.

Why does it matter?

Prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration there were calls for Congress to formally debate war authorization, called an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), but they seemed to fall on deaf ears. The existing AUMF was put in place in 2001/2002 after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) famously was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF, which is still being used today to justify military actions like the troop efforts in Niger. At the time she argued that the authorization was too broad and would lead to endless war. With the conflict in Afghanistan now in its seventeenth year, the longest war in U.S. history, there are many who now see her point.

Lee attempted to include an amendment in the House defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the existing AUMF and forced debate on the boundaries of a new one. The amendment passed through committee unanimously, but was later stripped from the bill by GOP leadership before the bill was voted on by the entire House.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) brought the debate to the Senate in mid-September, threatening to sit in on the Senate floor until his measure to end the existing AUMF within 6 months received a vote. After some negotiating, a vote was held which tabled Paul’s amendment.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who opposed Paul’s amendment in September but has called for a new war authorization, is now formally moving the debate forward via the Armed Forces Committee, which he chairs. According to Politico, McCain told reporters that, motivated in part by actions in Niger, he and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Jack Reed (RI), are drafting a proposal.

Another proposal has been in the works, authored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), under the umbrella of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), scheduled a hearing to discuss war powers on October 30.

The White House has expressed openness to a new AUMF, though they maintain, like the previous administration, that the 2001/2002 AUMF gives them adequate authorization for current military actions.

What do you think?

Should Congress debate a new war authorization?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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(32)
  • DrRichSwier
    10/24/2017
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    Congress can’t seem to address any issue of importance. Rather they bicker and get nothing accomplished. Former President Obama sent our soldiers to Niger without Congressional authorization. The Republican lead Senate and House did nothing to push the issue. Now they can put the power to declare war against the forces of Islam in the Maghreb back where it belongs in Congress. The question is will they? The enemy is real. Time for Congress to act and declare war against radical Islam. We are not in a war against terrorism. Terrorism is a military tactic. Great nations like the United States declare war against ideologies that are incompatible with America’s values. We are at war with radical Islam. Unconditional surrender.

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  • T
    10/25/2017
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    Congress needs to do their job and shouldn’t have ever given over that power to a President. They are just worried about themselves and want to stay elected and have someone else to blame.

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  • Chuck
    10/24/2017
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    Rep Knight as a member of the Armed Forces committee I would assume you would want to have a new AUMF in place to help protect our soldiers from being drawn into unnecessary conflict. However, based on your actions to date you will only do what republicans leadership tells you to do. Your constituents continue to watch you and will hold you accountable come 2018

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  • KansasTamale
    10/25/2017
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    Congress is already supposed to have control over whether we go to war or not. Apparently Congress didn’t even know we had troops in Niger nor that Trump has put them in harms way by provocations against Chad who removed their fighters leaving our troops vulnerable. THIS IS NOT SEEMLY NOR CORRECT. What Trump did is morally treasonable.

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  • Natalie
    10/24/2017
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    Repeal the Use of Military Forces Authorization. Do not let the mad man in the White House drag us into never-ending conflicts all over the world. Do not let this crazy man put American lives in jeopardy at home and abroad. Do not let him destroy our democracy. Do not let him have this level of unilateral power.

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  • Michael777
    10/25/2017
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    I did not even know we had American troops fighting and dying in Africa until the Niger Incident! Why the hell are we even in Africa in the first place? I can not believe we are spending $100 billion every year to maintain military bases that are almost in every country! We need to pull our troops out and bring them home, now!

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  • James
    10/24/2017
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    To my recollection, Congress has already authorized the ongoing war on Radical Islamic Terror quite some time ago and these actions being taken by U.S. Forces around the globe are not only authorized but justified as well! No matter where Isis and Al Qaeda or Hezbollah or whomever are are operating our congress has authorized U.S. Forces to go after them a long time ago. I don't see an argument here at all.

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  • Diane
    10/24/2017
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    It is the responsibility of Congress alone to authorize war. It is time for Congress to take back all war powers from the executive branch expect you to act as a senator and encourage this to go to vote in public but all Americans can see with a representative stand on this issue it is constitutional issue

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  • Cheryl
    10/24/2017
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    Find out what’s happening. I never knew we had troops in Niger. Trump has gone haywire. Stop him

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  • Pam
    10/24/2017
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    Yes. Checks and balances needed more than ever today. New new AUMF.

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  • Susan
    10/24/2017
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    Investigate please

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  • Ticktock
    10/24/2017
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    Yes. Trump’s ability to involve the US in new conflicts or escalate the conflicts that we are currently pursuing needs to be checked. Trump is not someone who can be trusted with anyone’s future let alone the entire US. The War Powers Act needs to be modified to limit Trump’s authority and place that authority in the hands of Congress where the responsibility belongs.

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    10/24/2017
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    The decision to go to war should be under the Authority of Congress. The Executive branch has too many other important activities to consider. After a decision to go to war has been made by the Congress, the Executive branch can follow with meetings with other countries and foreign leaders to discuss the war strategies, based on what the Congress has approved.

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  • Azrael
    10/24/2017
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    Why haven’t you done something? Time for everyone to stop talking and do your jobs Talking is not working Reasoning with unreasonable is one definition of crazy

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  • Andrew
    10/24/2017
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    Debate new war authorization

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  • Wendy
    10/25/2017
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    Trump needs authorization before ordering any military action. He has ordered two missions that Obama repeatedly rejected (both with negative consequences) and civilians are dying. He does not have the capacity to make an educated and rational decision. There are three branches in our government and it seems they need some balancing.

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  • Mark
    10/25/2017
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    About doggone time! President Ford said the President’s WAR Power Act was gutless...Congress didn’t want the responsibility...

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  • Mark
    10/26/2017
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    I’m tired of politicians playing political games, in regards to when and what they vote on. McCain from Az now wants to vote on this, if he was not bickering with the president would he? Meanwhile the U.S. is acting like a big brother forcing our views on other nations! I understand we are a war driven economy, but this has been out of hand too long

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  • S
    10/27/2017
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    Eisenhower told Kennedy when he sought out his advice before his inauguration not to be led into making policy decisions recommended by the military. Somebody needs to be commanding them and it sure isn’t trump even though he says he knows more than any of his generals or his military

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  • Thomas
    10/25/2017
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    I doubt trump has any idea where we have troops. His words say he will trust his generals to make all the decisions. His weak brain is too small to be a decision maker.

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