Sen. Lindsey Graham's draft resolution for a war without limits against the Islamic State nabbed a spot on the Senate calendar Wednesday night by bypassing traditional procedure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as a courtesy to Graham who was campaigning for presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, used the Rule 14 process, which allows the majority party to bypass committee, to place the South Carolina Republican’s authorization for the use of the military force on the Senate calendar.
The action does not mean the AUMF will come up for debate any time soon, a point that was repeatedly emphasized by senators and staffers on Thursday.
“The president is calling on the Congress to stand up, be counted. I’m gonna stand up, be counted,” Graham told reporters. “If our Democratic friends don’t want to give this president and other presidents the ability to go after ISIS without limitation to geography, time and means, be on the record.”
The former Republican presidential candidate said he disagreed with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker’s decision not to take up a draft AUMF in committee unless it already had strong bipartisan support.
“I respect Sen. Corker, he is one of my dearest friends,” said Graham, adding he was open to his AUMF going through the normal committee markup but would also be fine with skipping that process and moving to floor debate if McConnell, R-Ky., wanted to do so. “This is getting to be critical for the country.”
Graham’s measure, which was unveiled in December, would give President Barack Obama unrestricted military authority to target the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, without any expiration date, geographical limitations or prohibition on the use of U.S. ground troops.
Democrats have said they want a measure that puts restrictions on the deployment of U.S. troops and that will require periodic reauthorization.
“The leader hasn’t made any announcements on the scheduling of an AUMF, and like Sen. Corker, does not want to tie the hands of this or the next president with an AUMF along the lines of what President Obama proposed last year,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.
Corker told CQ his position remains the same and has no plans to hold a committee vote on Graham or anyone else’s proposed AUMF.
“I’m in the same place that I’ve been and that is I believe that the administration has the authority to do what they’re doing,” the Tennessee Republican said. “If a consensus develops [on AUMF] and I believe that something constructive . . . might come out of it then certainly I’d be glad to consider it.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, who last year proposed a compromise AUMF with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., that has failed to gain traction, said he continued to believe it was important for the Senate to only approve an AUMF that had broad bipartisan backing.
“We need to pass one,” the Arizona Republican said. “We don’t just need to make a political statement. I just know that it would be difficult to get Democratic support on this [measure from Graham]."
The White House on Thursday said it was reviewing Graham's draft AUMF.
"Passing an ISIL-specific AUMF with bipartisan support would provide a clear signal of unity,” said White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine. “Nearly a year ago, after extensive consultations with members of both parties the president submitted a draft AUMF that reflected those bipartisan consultations. In the months since, we have continued to state that we remain open to reasonable adjustments to that language. However, the President has also been clear from the beginning that we will not be engaging in the type of armed conflict that we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that remains the case.”
John T. Bennett contributed.
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