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US Senate moves to limit President Trump’s war powers

Sen. Bob Corker leaves a weekly policy luncheon with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill on April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

A group of US senators have put forth a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) bill that would limit President Donald Trump’s authority to attack other countries, days after he ordered a missile attack on Syria.

Unveiled on Monday by Senators Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Tim Kaine, a committee Democrat, the new AUMF bill allows any sitting US president to take military action against terror groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Daesh and other non-state actors.

However, in order to attack any nation state, for instance Syria, the bill suggests that the president must first inform Congress and give lawmakers two months to decide whether military action is necessary.

Without any expiration date, the new AUMF will replace the 2001 war authorization act passed by Congress in the days following the September 11 attacks, which prompted a so-called War on Terror campaign that is still ongoing.

The US Congress passed another AUMF in the following year to authorize the war on Iraq. That legislation has also been used to justify a wide range of conflicts since then.

The legislation will repeal the previous AUMFs and would also require Congress to review the AUMF every four years. This means the president should ask lawmakers to either repeal, modify, or keep the current AUMF. Should Congress fail to pass the new bill, the existing authority will continue.

Corker said he expected the foreign relations committee debate and possibly vote on the new bill as soon as next week.

“There have been a number of efforts over the years to update these authorities, and while there is still work ahead, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement on a product for the committee to consider and that I hope will ultimately strike an appropriate balance of ensuring the administration has the flexibility necessary to win this fight while strengthening the rightful and necessary role of Congress,” the Tennessee lawmaker said.

Kaine, who ran against Trump alongside Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election, said he hoped the president would realize that it was up to Congress to authorize wars.

“I hope President Trump will follow the American Constitution,” the Democratic senator said. “It’s very, very clear Congress has the power to declare war — and only Congress.”

Trump did not seek congressional approval for the last week attack against several Syrian military targets, which was jointly carried out with the UK and France.

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