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Practical Politics

The politics of bridling a mustang

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 7/6/2017, midnight

In a new, quiet move that may indicate that all congressional Republicans have not become dope fiends to the Trump kool-aid, Rep. Barbara J. Lee’s long-introduced amendment to nullify the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, was passed by the House Appropriations Committee a few days ago. The move surprised many, many people, including the redoubtable Rep. Lee.

We remember that Lee’s lone dissenting 2001 vote against the legislation which led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not win her more friends in Congress. In fact, as the single representative to vote against the legislation in those tense days, she earned the enmity of many, and the vocal threats of several more. Most of her constituents in the then- 13th District of California’s Bay Area (now the 9th District) supported her vote, but Congresswoman Lee also got death threats and had to travel with armed security guards for a time.

In 16 succeeding sessions of Congress, Congresswoman Lee has repeatedly introduced a motion to nullify the Use of Force authorization, and finally, last week, she was rewarded for her persistence. The original Authorization for Military Force was specifically tied to 9/11- related issues and populations, but has been the legal authority thus far for over 37 military engagements in more than 12 countries under three different presidential administrations, according to congressional reports. Congresswoman Lee sees the current AUMF as basically, “a blank check to wage endless wars.”

It seems that even some Republicans are realizing that our current president is too much of a reactive risk to take given North Korea’s belligerence and other tinderboxes in today’s world. Congress should have its constitutional say-so if international hostilities escalate to the level of increased armed conflict. Even though Mr. Trump is the only one duly authorized to always have the country’s nuclear weapons authorization codes at the ready, more than one lawmaker is finally realizing that this president should not be the only one to make the decision which commits this country to a sustained military conflict, and Congresswoman Lee’s bold motion may be the best way to impose some controls on that particular situation.

For sure, the recent committee vote does not guarantee that the Use of Force (AUMF) authorization will be repealed. It, however, does mean that the idea will now be debated in Congress, and that’s real progress. The Lee amendment must still pass full House and Senate votes in order to be sent to the president, and even then he may veto it. We shall see what we see.

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