Rep. Barbara Lee on Wednesday vowed to take her long-time efforts to repeal the current Authorization for Use of Military Force, which dates to 2001 but is used for a wide range of conflicts now, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee after Republican leaders removed it from a spending bill the California Democrat successfully attached the repeal to.
The California Democrat offered the provision as an amendment during an Appropriations Committee markup that was passed with bipartisan support by a voice vote that even surprised the sponsor herself.
But Republican leadership opted on Tuesday to strike that language from the spending bill because they determined it was an authorizing provision under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Lee amendment could have been considered legislation on an appropriations bill and therefore been subject to a point of order during floor debate, a senior GOP aide said.
Lee’s amendment was substituted with language in the House-passed fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill that was added as an amendment by Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, who also supported Lee’s amendment.
The Defense spending bill reported by the Appropriations Committee is part of a four-bill spending package headed to the House floor next week. Cole told reporters Wednesday he was called by GOP leadership to offer his amendment and that he knew the Appropriations Committee, which he also serves on, did not have jurisdiction on the matter when that panel voted for the amendment. Lee reiterated the same notion.
“Every now and then you do things knowing that you can be corrected to draw attention to the issue and that was my purpose,” Cole said. “We may not have gotten the AUMF vote but we certainly did get some attention and refocused maybe leadership and the relevant committees on their job.”
Lee said she had spoken to Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, who expressed support for AUMF repeal but that she had not spoken to him since the language was removed Tuesday. Lee said she would get a “free standing” repeal of AUMF to Foreign Affairs but did not provide a timeline on when she would do so.
“When you look at policy riders in the Appropriations Committee, the Republicans do everything that they want to do on every issue,” Lee said. “They authorize on appropriations bills all the time.”
Lee was the only member of the House to vote against the war authorization in 2001, days after the 9/11 attacks.
The AUMF provision has divided the House Republican Conference and is not supported by Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
“The Lee amendment was an irresponsible measure that would have left service members without an authorization to defeat al-Qaeda and ISIS and could have led to the release of prisoners at Guantanamo,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “There is a way to have this debate but an amendment that endangers our national security is not it.”