U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern, Barbara Lee, Walter Jones, Adam Schiff, Peter Welch and 20 other Members of Congress yesterday sent a bipartisan letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling for a debate and vote on the year-plus, multi-billion dollar war raging in the Middle East.
“In November, a bipartisan group of 35 House lawmakers urged Speaker Ryan to bring an AUMF to the House floor for a debate and vote. We were pleased to hear Speaker Ryan include this as a priority for 2016. Today, I join with my colleagues in calling on him to deliver on that promise,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “Americans deserve a Congress that will honor its constitutional responsibility when it comes to war and authorizing military force. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.”
The letter, addressed to Speaker Ryan, cites language included in the omnibus spending bill that finds “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”
In the State of the Union, President Obama renewed his call for a Congressional debate on the AUMF. He said, “If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote.”
“Tomorrow will mark one year since President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF. Over the last 365 days, it has sat on the Speaker’s desk while our nation has become increasingly more embroiled in yet another costly and endless war in the Middle East,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “The Constitution is clear: Congress has a responsibility to debate and vote on matters of war and peace. The American people deserve better than a Congress that abdicates this sacred responsibility.”
“For 15 years, the American people have felt the cost and pain of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have spent over $1.5 trillion and lost over 6,800 brave men and women. ISIL is a new and distinct threat, and the American people expect Congress to meet its constitutional responsibility to have a debate and a vote on whether yet another war is worth the grave cost,” said Congressman Jones (R-NC).
“Nearly 18 months into the military operation against ISIS, and a year since the President submitted a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force, Congress continues to abdicate its responsibility to consider a new AUMF to authorize the war against ISIS,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee. “There are a variety of different approaches and ideas to authorize the campaign against ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Congressional leadership must allow a full and open debate and vote on the matter. The power to declare war is one of Congress most solemn responsibilities and if our troops are willing to do their jobs — and they are — Congress should have the guts to do its job.”
“The Constitution is clear. It is the responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force. Yet, since military operations against ISIL began in August 2014, Congress has been absent.” Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) said. “It’s inexcusable. A service member has died. Taxpayers have spent more than $5.8 billion on airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Speaker Ryan acknowledged that a declaration of war is the responsibility of Congress. He is right. It’s time for Congress to debate and vote on America’s strategy to defeat of ISIL.”
Full text of the letter is below:
February 10, 2016
The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Ryan:
We write to follow up on our request that you bring before the House a formal authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Daesh.
We commend your statements in December 2015 in support of updating an AUMF to reflect U.S. efforts against ISIL in Iraq and Syria and agree with your statement that “Congress is the one who declares war. This is Congress’ responsibility.” Further, we appreciate your recent efforts to explore support within your Caucus for a debate and a vote on an ISIL-AUMF.
While members may have differing views on the scope of a new authorization for the use of military force, we can all agree that Congress has a Constitutional duty to debate and declare war. Indeed, the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill included Sense of Congress language adopted on a bipartisan basis in the House Appropriations Committee stating that:
(A) Congress finds that –
(1) The United States has been engaged in military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for more than 8 months;
(2) President Obama submitted an authorization for the use of military force against ISIL in February 2015; and
(3) Under article 1, section 8 of the Constitution, Congress has the authority to “declare war.”
(b) Therefore, Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force against ISIL.
Congress cannot continue to abdicate its constitutional authority to authorize military action abroad. We stand ready to work with you to prioritize the consideration of an authorization for the use of military force against ISIL before the House as soon as possible.