- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs, made the following remarks on updating the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force on the House floor last evening:
“Well thank you very much, Congresswoman Lee, and we’re all grateful to you for being so clear and so principal.
“As I’ve often said, Congress must fulfill its Constitutional obligation to consider an updated AUMF. And as my colleagues have said before, that stands for the Authorization of the Use of Military Force.
“Right now, the Administration is still using the resolution we passed after September 11th, 2001 in the legal justification to fight ISIS. That’s deeply problematic.
“The 2001 AUMF has none of the limits many of us are seeking. We’re a Congress. We’re not a rubber stamp to any President. We have a right to vote on issues such as war and peace.
“U.S. leadership to defeat ISIS is critical, but this doesn’t require a large-scale deployment of U.S. forces.
“With American leadership, we were able to prevent a whole sale slaughter of the Yazidi people. Iraqi partners were able to maintain control of the Mosul Dam, which if breached by ISIS, could’ve resulted in death and displacement of up to 2 million people, and endangered American personnel in Iraq. With our support, local forces have taken back about 80% of the territory from ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“So another large-scale open-ended commitment of American troops is certainly not the answer. The disastrous intervention in Iraq last decade set the stage for the rise of ISIS in the first place.
“The 2001 AUMF has no limits at all on US ground troops. As troop levels continue to rise in the fight against ISIS, we just cannot put our heads in the sand. We need to sit together as a deliberative body and make these important decisions—not give any President or any Administration a blank check.
“So I am working on legislation to limit the authority Congress provided after September 11th. We need to tailor this authority to the threat we face today.
“September 11th happened 16 years ago. We need new parameters to define our mission and our goals. Now I voted for that AUMF 16 years ago back then, but I never would have imagined that 16 years later, it would still be there, and give a blank check to any President who would use it for any time, any place, and to do anything.
“So we must fulfill our Constitutional responsibility, and consider what an appropriate authorization should include.
“Using a 2001 authorization for a 2017 conflict sets a terrible Constitutional precedent. Congress has a vital Constitutional responsibility over America’s war powers. This is one of the most important decisions we are charged with making. When we fail to live up to that responsibility, we weaken the balance of powers that is the bedrock of our democracy.
“Considering an updated AUMF is not easy, but it is our job. We should do our job. President Obama came to Congress well over a year ago with a proposed AUMF. Not many people cared for it, but it was a proposed AUMF. We could’ve changed it, we, it was a starting point, but we didn’t do it. We threw it away because it just got too hard.
“That cannot happen again. Congress has a responsibility to do its part here, and unfortunately we’re not meeting that responsibility. We owe it to the American people and we owe it to our men and women in uniform to do our job. Congressional inaction on an AUMF is inexcusable.
“Now I want to say that it is a separate issue from the recent strikes against Assad.
“Congress has made no authorization whatsoever for sustained military action against Assad. The 60-day clock started ticking when the President notified Congress of his missile strike. The Administration must come to Congress on that issue as well. There cannot be long-term military action against Assad without Congressional say so.
“Now Assad’s a bad guy, and I think that he should be deposed, quite frankly. I think that any future for Syria cannot include Assad, who has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people.
“But whether the United States must involve itself in every single war in ground troops using an outdated authorization for the use of force just strikes me as being something that should not happen, and will lead us down a path in the future where we can’t get out of it.
“So I want to thank the gentlewoman from California. She has always stood up for her beliefs whether they seem popular and unpopular at, when it happened, and that’s just the kind of people we want to serve in Congress—someone who speaks out and has been a consistent fighter.
“So I’m proud to join with her tonight. And I hope that more colleagues on both sides of the aisle will understand that this is an important Constitutional principle. It’s not a matter of who is in power, who is the President, what party has the Majority.
“As Americans and as legislators, we should all be very concerned about giving any president a blank check to go to war. I thank you and I yield back.”