Proving he is both sneaky and undemocratic, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) waited until after midnight to strip an amendment with bipartisan support from the 2018 defense authorization bill without debate, a floor vote or consultation with anyone but the Republican leadership, which was a huge favor to President Trump.
The amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) would repeal the 60-word long 9-11 inspired Authorized Use of Military Force law (AUMF), passed in 2001, which Trump uses to arbitrarily deploy military forces against ISIS, drop bombs, carry out drone attacks and other hostile actions in a myriad of countries across the world.
It would have required the Congress to pass a new law before military action could be used against ISIS in Syria or elsewhere.
Ryan stripped my 01 AUMF repeal amdt from DOD Approps in the dead of night. This is underhanded & undemocratic. The people deserve a debate!
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) July 19, 2017
The AUMF, which Lee calls a “blank check” for war, allows Trump to launch hostile military actions without getting any prior approval from Congress, and has been used in the past by Presidents George W. Bush and Obama in places including Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Yemen – and even as the basis for the Iraq War.
The act gave the President authority to take “all necessary and appropriate force” against groups linked to the 9/11 attacks and has been used to justify actions against countries beyond the original perpetrators such as Yemen.
The AUMF has been used to date to launch 37 military operations in 14 countries.
Lee has been trying to get her amendment passed for five years and was pleasantly surprised recently when it was passed by the House Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan support.
It even has support from within the Pentagon. Last month, General Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he wanted to see a new version of the AUMF,
“It would send a loud and unmistakable message to our young men and women deployed that the people at home in the form of the Congress support what they’re doing.,” said General Dunford. “That (would) show of strong support across party lines and by the American military is seen as an indication of concern in Congress that our unpredictable President can’t be trusted.
That show of strong support across party lines and by the American military is seen as an indication of concern in Congress that our unpredictable President can’t be trusted to put the lives of American servicemen in harms way without any consultation.
“Many saw this bipartisan move,” writes Think Progress, ” as a response to a commander-in-chief with shaky foreign policy skills as tensions escalate in Syria, North Korea and elsewhere.”
When Republicans joined with Democrats to pass it out of committee, even Lee was surprised as well as pleased.
Whoa. My amdt to sunset 2001 AUMF was adopted in DOD Approps markup! GOP & Dems agree: a floor debate & vote on endless war is long overdue. pic.twitter.com/FS8LfYWo5J
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 29, 2017
Ryan did not give Lee any reason for stripping her amendment from the bill but did say in an interview he thought it was not appropriate in the defense bill.
Lee did not take that well.
“Over the years,” wrote Lee, “I’ve seen Republican leadership deploy every manner of undemocratic, underhanded tactics in Congress. But stripping my bipartisan amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF – in the dead of night, without a vote – may be a new low from Speaker Ryan.”
Speaking about Trump without mentioning his name, Lee added. “Republican leadership,” she wrote, “showed last night that they will do anything to maintain this status quo.”
In place of Lee’s amendment, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) got a watered down new amendment added to a separate defense bill requiring military officials to “explain what they would like to see in a new authorized use of force.”
It did not repeal the 2001 bill but was meant to be a signal that Congress needs to reconsider the AUMF. “Sooner or later,” Cole said in the House, “Congress needs to take responsibility. We have slipped into almost endless warfare in a lot of places that none of us anticipated we would be.”
Lee isn’t giving up. She is proposing a new standalone bill to repeal the AUMF, but so far the Republicans have not agreed to give it a committee hearing.
Last week, anticipating she was going to have a problem with Ryan, Lee told the Mercury News that the Republicans “control everything. That’s how this place works – it’s in many ways undemocratic.”
That is an understatement. Ryan has proven himself to be a tool first of the extremist conservatives and big money polluters like the Koch brothers and in the past year of Trump, no matter how outrageous, outlandish, dangerously and selfishly he acts.
Giving Trump a blank check to go to war at will, when his administration is in trouble on multiple fronts, his legislative agenda is in tatters, when he is under investigation for collusion with Russia, is an invitation to a real life version of Wag The Dog where our impulsive bully boy president uses military action to take attention away from his ineptitude, outrageous behavior, and undemocratic administration.
Trump and Ryan better hope the Democrats don’t take back the House in 2018 because if that happens they will get a dose of their own poisonous politicized medicine.