Chairman McCaul Delivers Opening Remarks at Full Committee Hearing on Reclaiming Congress’s Article I Powers: Counterterrorism AUMF ReformPress Release
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul gave the following remarks at a full committee hearing on repealing and replacing the 2001 and 2002 AUMF’s with a new, updated counterterrorism AUMF.
– Remarks as Delivered –
Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress alone has the authority to declare war – our most solemn power.
Declarations of war and authorizations for the use of military force – AUMFs – are this committee’s most consequential jurisdiction.
We are now 22 years past the 9/11 attacks. While we have dramatically degraded those threats, we still face terrorists committed to our destruction.
The bipartisan 9/11 Commission — led by New Jersey Governor Tom Kean and the former Democratic Chair of this committee, Lee Hamilton – made clear that the fight against radical Islamist terrorism would be a, quote, “generational challenge…likely to be measured in decades, not years.”
From my years as a counterterrorism prosecutor and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I know that ongoing counterterrorism operations are legal and necessary, and have saved us from many attacks.
But Congress has not revisited our counterterrorism force authorities in over two decades.
Ninety percent of current House Members were not here when Congress enacted the two key AUMFs still on the books.
The 2001 post-9/11 AUMF has been used against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, including ISIS.
The 2002 Iraq AUMF was used against Saddam Hussein and also against terrorist threats in Iraq, including IRGC Commander Soleimani and Iran-backed militias.
During that time, Congress has held hundreds of briefings and hearings. We have continued to appropriate funds for those engagements.
But we haven’t revisited the authorities Congress gave to the President, eleven Congresses ago. War should not be on autopilot.
Congress owes our troops a clear commitment to the missions we are asking them to undertake.
We need to exercise our Article I war powers and stop our unhealthy, ongoing deference to the executive branch. Our troops deserve that.
My preference would be to repeal and replace all of the AUMFs with a new, more limited authorization scoped to the terrorist threats we face today.
It would not apply to foreign nations or their regular armed forces. It would not provide authority to occupy and reconstruct a country.
There is also bipartisan interest in making a new AUMF time-limited, so that Congress is required to review and reauthorize more regularly.
Doing this is hard. To succeed, a new AUMF requires bipartisan and Presidential support.
And it will require us to answer tough questions, such as which terrorist organizations should be covered.
As mentioned, current authorities cover Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces, including ISIS.
But the Administration is asking us to exclude the Taliban, and not to add any Iran-backed terrorist militias to any new AUMF.
I have to say I was troubled by these requests. Those groups have killed many Americans and pose ongoing threats.
Iran-backed militias have attacked U.S. personnel in the Middle East more than 80 times since the start of the Biden Administration. During the Iraq War they killed more than 600 Americans.
The Taliban actively harbors terrorists including Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s top lieutenant and, until recently, the leader of al-Qaeda. The operational brains behind 9/11 was living in downtown Kabul under the Taliban’s protection.
Many Specially Designated Global Terrorists serve as senior officials in the Taliban government, including Interior Minister Haqqani, head of the Haqqani Network, which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
It is simply not credible to exclude these extreme, ongoing terrorist threats from a new counterterrorism AUMF.
When the President says he can just address them using his Article 2 powers, he is telling Congress not to exercise our exclusive Constitutional authority.
There is no consensus about the scope of the President’s inherent powers to use force, except in cases of self-defense, after we have been attacked. I want the President to have that clear authority: He does not need to wait for those terrorists to attack us first.
With that, I want to thank our eminent panel of legal and policy officials for being here today. I look forward to our discussion.
This should not be a partisan exercise but rather a bipartisan exercise. It is my sincere hope to come together and mark up a new AUMF by next month.