Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

YouTube Link Instagram Link

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor to express his concern with an amendment to repeal the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) before a new AUMF has been fully considered and approved to replace it with:

“We cannot let wars against new terrorist groups like ISIS be waged only by the executive branch – we in Congress need to weigh in as well to let our allies and our adversaries know we are serious, and committed. Taking these lessons into account, I think it’s imperative for any future terrorism-related AUMF to include a sunset provision that requires Congress to put its skin in the game. That way we can avoid being put in the position we are in today, having to vote on an amendment to repeal a law that authorizes force against groups that are actively planning attacks against American interests. Ultimately I cannot support my colleague’s effort to repeal the 2001 AUMF in six months because of the real risk associated with repealing such a vital law before we have a something to replace it with. Fortunately, I know the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee remains committed to considering legislation to repeal the 2001 AUMF and replace it.” 

Nearly sixteen years after Congress passed the 2001 AUMF, the fight against those responsible for the September 11th attacks has been expanded to include in some terrorist organizations that did not exist in 2001, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

As a result, Flake and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) have introduced S. J. Res. 43, a bipartisan AUMF that explicitly authorizes military action against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, gives Congress a bigger oversight role in determining what organizations can be considered to be “associated” with the terrorist groups and in which countries military action can take place, and provides an expedited process for Congress to re-authorize this AUMF in five years. Lastly, it repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs. 

Video of Flake’s remarks can be viewed here.
A transcript of Flake’s prepared remarks can be viewed below.

Background:

  • During a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on June 20, 2017, Flake spoke in support of his resolution with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to authorize use of military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. To watch Flake’s full remarks, click here.

  • On Nov. 17, 2015, Flake and Kaine spoke on the Senate floor on the need to debate and pass an AUMF against ISIL, especially in the wake of the recent attacks on Paris and Beirut. To watch Flake’s full remarks, click here.

  • On June 8, 2015, Flake and Kaine introduced S.1587, Authority for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Act, a bipartisan bill which would authorize the use of military force against ISIL.

***

I’d like to thank the Senator from Kentucky for focusing the Senate’s attention to the 16-year-old authorization for the use of military force.

As a freshman member of the House of Representatives, I voted in favor of the 2001 authorization for the use of military force on September 14th, 2001 – almost 16 years ago to the day. I can attest that when I voted for that law, I had no idea it would still be in force 16 years later.

Since its passage, more than 300 members of the House who voted on it are no longer in office. Of the Senators who voted, only 23 remain in the Senate today. That comes out to about 70 percent of the Congress who have not voted to authorize force against terrorist groups abroad. 

It is past time for Congress to calibrate the legal underpinning of the war against terrorism to today’s realities. ISIS, for example, did not even exist when the 2001 law was approved.

We have learned a number of things since we voted to go to war with the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, and I think it’s time to incorporate those lessons into a new AUMF. For example, we have learned that no administration is ever going to want to have the powers granted to it under the 2001 law curtailed. The Obama administration fought efforts to put an ISIS-specific AUMF in place, and the Trump administration has signaled that it believes the 2001 authorities are adequate and it does not plan to seek any new AUMF.

We have also learned crafting a new AUMF that garners bipartisan support is an incredibly difficult task – I know, because I’ve tried. I think we can all agree that the only thing worse than leaving the 2001 statute in place is a partisan vote on a new AUMF. And lastly, we have learned that America is strongest when we speak with one voice, which means Congress needs to have some buy-in. 

We cannot let wars against new terrorist groups like ISIS be waged only by the executive branch – we in Congress need to weigh in as well to let our allies and our adversaries know we are serious, and committed. Taking these lessons into account, I think it’s imperative for any future terrorism-related AUMF to include a sunset provision that requires Congress to put its skin in the game. That way we can avoid being put in the position we are in today, having to vote on an amendment to repeal a law that authorizes force against groups that are actively planning attacks against American interests.

Ultimately I cannot support my colleague’s effort to repeal the 2001 AUMF in six months because of the real risk associated with repealing such a vital law before we have a something to replace it with.

Fortunately, I know the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee remains committed to considering legislation to repeal the 2001 AUMF and replace it. 

I have introduced legislation to do just that, along with my colleague from Virginia. That legislation – S. J. Res. 43 – would repeal the 2001 law and authorize the use of force against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. It would allow for greater Congressional oversight of what groups can be deemed as “associated forces” of those organizations. It also contains a sunset provision.

I look forward to working with my colleague from Kentucky as well as the other members of the Foreign Relations Committee to move an AUMF that can garner bipartisan support. 

###