The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the authority to declare war.
But for the past 17 years, the executive branch has stretched existing Congressional war authorizations—known as AUMFs—to justify wars against new enemies in over a dozen countries, far beyond the places and groups Congress envisioned when it authorized use of military force in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2002.
It’s long past time for Congress to vote on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force. In the coming weeks, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider a proposal that, as currently drafted, would provide a blank check for more endless wars.
Congress must take back its responsibility to authorize the use of military force in order to ensure that any new war has the support of the American people, and must ensure that it has clear objectives. Any new authorization must require regular and detailed reporting to Congress and the public, and must include a sunset that would require lawmakers to vote again each Congress, rather than signing a blank check for more endless war.
POGO encourages you to read more and learn more about this important constitutional issue. We have compiled some resources below for your convenience, and we encourage you to write to us with any questions. Email Pam Rutter at email@example.com.
Op-Ed: Congress, don't rubber-stamp executive war power overreach, by POGO Fellows Mickey Edwards and Lou Fisher, June 9, 2018. The appropriate response to executive overreach isn’t to rubber stamp it, but to examine our current national security threats and only judiciously authorize the use of military force as appropriate to address those threats.
Letter to Congress: Civil Society Urges Senate Not to Authorize Expanded Presidential War Powers, May 16, 2018.
As part of a diverse group of organizations with a range of missions and perspectives, POGO sent a letter opposing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force proposed by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). This new authorization would cede to the Executive Branch Congress’ power under Article I of the Constitution to declare war and would authorize this president and future presidents to send American troops to countries where we are not currently at war—with no meaningful limitations on the type of force that may be used or whom it may be used against. Such an authorization is not an improvement over the status quo; it is a dangerous and unnecessary expansion of the president’s war powers that would completely undermine the purported purposes behind the bill.
Press Statement: New War Authorization Bill Does More Harm Than Good, April 16, 2018.
As currently written, the bill would only further erode Congress’s constitutional role of declaring war by codifying the ability of any president to conduct further endless wars. The Congress needs to vote on a war authorization that doesn’t cause yet more erosions to their Constitutional responsibility and will create a real debate in this country over whether we should still be conducting these wars.
Article: The New American Way of War, by POGO’s Mark Thompson, April 23, 2018.
The U.S. increasingly is going to war on presidential whim, without the ballast and backing the Founding Fathers ordered Congress to provide. That’s fine when no Americans are wounded, killed or captured in combat. But the day will come when something on some future battlefield goes horribly wrong, and Americans will ask: how did this happen?
Article: When It Comes to War, “The Blank Check Just Got Bigger,” by POGO’s Mandy Smithberger, March 1, 2018.
A recent ad-hoc hearing held by the House Progressive and House Liberty Caucuses revealed a rare consensus that Congress can’t continue to abdicate its war power responsibilities. This article includes video of Lt. Col. Danny Davis (USA Ret.), deployed into combat zones four times in his career, beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and then to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan twice (2005, 2011). In 2012 he published a report showing that military leaders were misleading Congress and the American public about conditions on the ground in AFghanistan. His testimony about the need for Congress to have the integrity to do their job and vote on our current wars is compelling. Lt. Col. Davis is a member of POGO’s Center for Defense Information Military Advisory Board.
Article: It’s Time for a New War Vote, by POGO’s Dan Grazier, October 30, 2017.
Three out of four Members of Congress today took their seats after that body first voted to authorize the War on Terrorism. After 16 years, another vote is long past due.
Article: Congress is Afraid to be Responsible for Our Current Wars, by POGO’s Mandy Smithberger, July 19, 2017.
Last summer, House leadership used a procedural gimmick to block an amendment offered by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) in order to avoid an up or down vote to authorize our current wars.
Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), September 18, 2001.
War Powers Act resources from The Law Library of Congress.
Authority for the Use of Military Force of 2018, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Corker-Kaine proposal).
Merkley Announces Opposition to Proposed AUMF, April 20, 2018.
When Presidents Go to War, by The Editorial Board, The New York Times, April 24, 2018.