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House GOP votes to keep post-9/11 force authorization on books

May. 22, 2014 - 12:46PM   |  
Yemeni soldiers ride a tank after taking hold of the major al-Qaeda stronghold Azzan in the southern province of Shabwa, on May 8. Yemen's Army seized control of Azzan as the offensive against militants entered its tenth day, the Defense Ministry announced. (STR / AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday struck down a measure that would have voided the post-9/11 authorization of war against al-Qaida despite widespread war fatigue across the United States.

House members killed an amendment offered by California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and John Garamendi, which would have sunsetted the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) next year, should it pass and Senate leaders agree to include it in the final measure.

The vote tally on Schiff-Garamendi was 233 nays to 191 yeas, breaking mostly along party lines. More than 200 Republicans voted against voiding the AUMF next year.

Lawmakers in both parties have talked in recent years about rescinding the AUMF or updating it, especially as al-Qaida has been weakened in Pakistan and Afghanistan but gained strength elsewhere.

Experts and some lawmakers — from both parties — have said the measure is outdated, and should at least be updated to reflect a changed fight against al-Qaida and similar forces in places beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“When Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force just days after 9/11, it provided the president with the broad authority to strike against those who ‘planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored them,’ ” Schiff said Wednesday on the floor.

“That authorization no longer properly encompasses the scope of military action that we are taking in the ongoing fight against terrorism,” Schiff said. “While the AUMF was originally directed at a fairly narrow range of actors, it has been used to sanction targeted strikes against groups and militants with little relation to the individuals who actually planned, authorized and perpetrated the attacks on 9/11.”

The vote came as Americans are increasingly weary of using US military power.

A January USA Today/Pew Research Center poll showed 52 percent of Americans now believe both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts failed to achieve their goals. And a late-April USA Today/Pew survey found 53 percent of Americans want more economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, while 62 percent oppose Washington selling arms to Kiev’s government.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters last year he doubted AUMF reform efforts would go anywhere because the White House opposes altering the measure. But some legal scholars say the Obama administration might push for changes near the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, which ends in January 2017.

Democratic sources said before the Schiff-Garamendi vote they had no idea how the vote would play out, given that an increasing number of Republican voters and lawmakers say they believe the US should focus on its problems at home.

But GOP leaders pushed their members to kill the amendment.

Moments before the vote, Republican House Armed Services Committee spokesman John Noonan tweeted: “@BuckMcKeon vote recommendation on the Schiff amendment (A017) RC 237 is a NO.”

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