Senators on Monday unveiled their long-awaited legislation to update and curtail the presidential forces just days after the start of a military offensive against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But under the new proposal, lawmakers refused to give explicit authority to President Donald Trump because the president, they argue, sent out a mixed message and did not draft a clear long-term strategy on the Syrian civil war.
"There will be a lot of concern about giving the executive every kind of wider authorization if we do not know where we are going in Syria – one day we will deploy more troops, another day we will take them out. This is not a strategy at all, "said Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) to the Daily Beast
coordinated air strikes on the Syrian dictator's chemical weapons infrastructure in response to the regime's alleged chemical attack earlier this month against innocent civilians in Douma, renewed appeals by Congressmen to withdraw their constitutional commitment.
But without a longer-term strategy in Syria, frustrated lawmakers were reluctant to grant Trump the specific authority to conduct military operations against Assad's forces, apart from the ongoing coalition efforts against ISIS in the country. In other words, the use of military force against the Assad regime would remain illegal.
"If [Trump] wants to do something that will be an ongoing effort, then I know he must come to Congress for approval," Sen Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee -Senats, said the Daily Beast, adding that he told the president just before American, French and British forces directly attacked the Assad regime. 1
The new approval, drawn up by Corker and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), "gives [the administration] the flexibility to to succeed, which they have now, but it also keeps Congress up to date and has the ability to stop it if they find it outrageous, "Corker said.
More specifically, the authorization allows the President to use military force against terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, in addition to the descendants of those designated in the legislation as "designated associate forces." However, it would not allow the president to use military force against a nation-state. In other words, the new authorization would still not justify Trump's decision to carry out coordinated aerial bombardments last week on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure.
The government claims that the government has sent mixed messages about their intentions after the alleged chemical weapons attack. While Trump himself mentioned a "sustainable" campaign against the regime during his address to the nation on Friday night, Secretary of Defense James Mattis called the strikes a "one-off shot" aimed at averting future chemical attacks by the Assad regime. And just days before the alleged chemical attack took place, Trump's leading national security officials were forced to reaffirm US commitment to the extermination of the IS and other terrorist groups in Syria after the president publicly suggested that the US resign Syria. Legislators tried to pinpoint these discrepancies as they pressed for a substantive vote on the warlords of the president.
"Assad must have consequences for his war crimes and I would be willing to support military action if the President comes to us for approval and put in place a Syria strategy.But he does not have the authority to do it alone and without Striking a broader strategy is ruthless, "said Kaine, a co-author of the new AUMF, The Daily Beast. "If we order our troops to risk their lives, then there must be a debate and vote in Congress to say that this is in the national interest."
Legislators have asked the Trump administration to develop a longer strategy for Syria, even though the Friday's strikes were only a one-off offensive in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack. Most Republicans, including Corker, and some Democrats have argued that the nature of the strike is consistent with the president's constitutional powers.
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Even though the updated approval may exempt the Foreign Affairs Committee following an open revision process, senators still have no guarantee from the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-). KY) to give a full voice over the legislation. In addition, the leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate would have a hard time enforcing tough votes for their members in an election year.
"My first goal is to pull something out of the committee, so I'm really not worried about the successful vote in the committee, which has been difficult for years," Corker said. "It's a political season, and everyone says they're throwing AUMF into the balance – we'll see if they all really want to go into AUMF." "Until we've done anything here, I can not imagine [the House] recording it
The issue has been a sensitive issue on Capitol Hill for years, with some Democrats even challenging the Obama administration for its refusal to hold a new war force. Under Trump, however, the issue has gained more attention and steam as the legislators of both parties question the president's foreign policy strength.
"There is much more interest now in what's going on in Syria and their lives in Niger with troop losses – people said we have troops there? There are things that urge us to finally respond to it was just way too long, "said Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who was co-author with Kaines former AUMFs, in an interview.
Last summer the House Appropriations Committee voted to scrap the AUMF in 2001; but this change has never made it into the house. In September, the Senate rejected the amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), which repealed the 2001 and 2002 grants and gave Congress six months to design a new one.