WASHINGTON–On Wednesday, the US Senate voted 61-36 to end debate and kill an amendment that would have established an expiration date on America’s current Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs).*
The AUMFs have drawn criticism over the years for being both vague and stale. Apple comes out with a new iPhone almost every year. By contrast, the US hasn’t come out with a new AUMF in nearly 15 years.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who spoke in favor of sunsetting the current authorizations, said that the AUMFs have been “terrific products that have exceeded all expectations in terms of durability and versatility,” alluding to the fact that the authorizations have been used to justify a highly diverse set of conflicts against various enemies.
“But now that the US government has gotten their use out of them,” Murphy continued, “we’re ready for something new.”
If the amendment had passed, the old AUMFs would have been set to expire in six months, giving Congress ample time to pass one or more updated war authorizations that address the current conflicts.
Thus, by blocking the amendment, the Senate effectively voted to preserve the unlimited warmaking authority of President Trump. And in an interesting twist, the amendment was defeated with crucial help from some of the president’s most vocal critics.
One such critic was Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who argued that the current war authorizations must remain intact to demonstrate our support for the troops. “The American soldiers need to know that the American people have their back,” the Maverick said Wednesday. “Frankly, they should also know that the American Senators do not have the time or interest to research and debate every single conflict they get sent to fight and die in.”
Another unlikely source of support for the president came from Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who has been strongly critical of the president’s collusion with Russia and has called for the Congress to stand up to Trump as a co-equal branch of government.
In a statement released to defend his vote, Warner explained that he is deeply concerned about the possibility of executive overreach under President Trump. But he added that “It’s hard to imagine how any president–even this one–would abuse unlimited war powers.”
*This is a satirical post. The vote discussed above did occur and the Senators in question did vote as described. However, the quotes attributed to them are fictional.