Armed Conflict Congress Executive Branch Foreign Relations & International Law

The SFRC Vote on the Menendez AUMF

Jack Goldsmith
Friday, December 12, 2014, 12:15 PM
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 yesterday to approve Senator Menendez’s draft AUMF for ISIL.

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-8 yesterday to approve Senator Menendez’s draft AUMF for ISIL.  As endorsed by the Committee, the bill: -- Authorizes the President to use force against ISIL or against “associated forces or associated persons”  (a phrase defined to mean means “individuals and organizations fighting for or on behalf of [ISIL] or a closely-related successor entity, for the purposes of action authorized to be taken under this joint resolution). -- Does “not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces for the purpose of ground combat operations,” with a few exceptions. -- Has a three-year sunset provision -- Requires the President to report to Congress “at least once every 60 days on specific actions taken pursuant to this authorization.” -- Sunsets the 2001 AUMF after three years and repeals the 2002 AUMF -- States that “[t]he provisions of this joint resolution pertaining to the authorization of use of force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant shall supersede any preceding authorization for the use of military force.”  (This is an odd formulation; I think it simply means that Congress removes any possibility of relying on the 2001 AUMF to go after ISIL.) This Bill will not become law.  Rather, “[t]he committee's vote is an eleventh-hour attempt by Democrats to force a debate on war authorization before lawmakers adjourn for the year.  No major action on war authorization is expected until next year, when Republicans will control both chambers.”  The Bill that emerges from the Republican-controlled SFRC will look different – though it is impossible to predict how, or even in what direction.

Jack Goldsmith is the Learned Hand Professor at Harvard Law School, co-founder of Lawfare, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Before coming to Harvard, Professor Goldsmith served as Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel from 2003-2004, and Special Counsel to the Department of Defense from 2002-2003.

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