House lawmakers proposed legislation Thursday that would replace aging 9/11-era war authorizations against terrorist groups in the latest wrinkle of a long-running political debate on Capitol Hill.
The bill, sponsored by four House Armed Services Committee members who are military veterans, re-authorizes President Trump to wage war against the Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban, including any supporters but not nations. The legislation would sunset after five years and require the president to regularly update Congress on progress in the conflicts.
"The threats we face today are far different than those we faced over a decade ago, and this legislation reflects Congress's Constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force against terrorist organizations," Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Col., said in a released statement.
Other sponsors include Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calf., the son of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The bill aims to force Congress into an awkward vote after it has allowed three administrations to wage wars based on legal authorizations it passed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq invasion. U.S. troops fighting the Islamic State in Syria operate under them, for example.
The Trump administration told Congress over the summer that it has all the legal authority it needs to wage the wars.
In recent months, both the House and the Senate have wrangled and wrung their hands over new war authorization legislation as pressure mounts for Congress to weigh in after 16 years of war. The debate goes back to at least 2015 when the Obama administration requested a new authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed doors in August about its consideration of an AUMF replacement.
Members came out of the room still split and there has been no committee action. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced an AUMF replacement bill in May and it has also made no progress.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a long-time war opponent, has sponsored bills to repeal the war authorizations and won a surprise victory when the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of adding her legislation to a spending bill.
But Lee's repeal was later stripped from the legislation at the behest of Speaker Paul Ryan before it hit the House floor, saving lawmakers from what many see as a difficult and unwanted vote.