WASHINGTON ― After a years-long fight to reclaim Congress’s war powers from the presidency, supporters said Monday they they are in talks with the White House for a potentially game-changing “green light” from President Joe Biden.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said “the stars are aligning” for his bill with Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., to repeal the Iraq-focused 1991 and 2002 war authorizations. Unified government under Democrats and willingness in the White House add up to a rare opening politically, the bipartisan duo said a Heritage foundation event.
Biden is supportive of Congress reasserting is war powers, they said, because of his 36-year tenure in the Senate, which included time chairing Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Perhaps the strongest voice for a reassertion of congressional war powers for decades in the United States Senate was Joe Biden, so he’s invested intellectually and professionally in this position, as are some of his closest advisors,” Young said.
Congressional Republicans who might have been wary of tying a Republican president’s hands shouldn’t have that hangup under a Democratic president, and support from Biden himself ought to galvanize fellow Democrats, Kaine said.
“Some [Democrats] might say are you trying to clip [Biden’s] wings or curb his authority, but that’s why having a potential green light from the White House could be so important,” Kaine said. “I can deliver 50 of 50 [Senate Democratic] votes if the White House says, ‘green light.’”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Kaine held a phone call last week with the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to figure out what Biden’s red-lines are on rewriting the any authorization of the use of military force, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
While supporters await word from Biden, Menendez told Kaine he plans hold a vote on the legislation in late May or early June, a major step, especially if it receives Biden’s backing. The Hill broke news of those plans last week.
Kaine said he is eyeing the possibility, if the bill clears committee, for it to be an amendment to the broad 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, where it would spark a “robust debate” this summer.
Advocates hope that passing a 2002 AUMF repeal primes Congress to reform the 2001 AUMF which was passed to fight those responsible for the 9/11 attack and subsequently cited by the Obama administration in the fight against the Islamic State. But addressing the 2001 AUMF could run into stiffer resistance in Congress.
Advocates hope that passing a 2002 AUMF repeal primes Congress to reform the 2001 AUMF,― which was passed to fight those responsible for the 9/11 attack and subsequently cited by the Obama administration in the fight against the Islamic State. But addressing the 2001 AUMF could run into stiffer resistance in Congress.
In a floor speech last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled support for the 2001 AUMF, saying it “authorizes the ongoing counterterrorism operations that have kept our homeland safe for 20 years.”
Grappling with 2001 AUMF reform would not only be a matter of political courage, but an “intellectual challenge,” Kaine said. That authorization was stretched to wage fight nebulous non-state terror groups.
“There’s a still a U.S. need to counter non-state terrorist groups, but there is still an intellectual challenge to describe there ‘where,’ to describe the ‘who,’” he said. “Non-states don’t follow Geneva Conventions.”
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