Ken Buck details timeline and plans for AUMF repeal, replacement negotiations

Buck, the lead negotiator for reforming existing U.S. war powers resolutions, said that he’s hoping to have a finalized plan by the end of the year

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Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) speaks to reporters outside the House Chambers in the U.S. Capitol Building on May 31, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), who was tapped by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael Michael McCaul (R-TX) to lead negotiations over the repeal and replacement of existing U.S. war powers resolutions, said that lawmakers are hoping to finalize plans for the replacement bill by the end of the year.

Opponents of bipartisan congressional efforts in recent years to repeal or otherwise modify the four existing Authorizations of Military Force (AUMF) have warned that doing so could risk kneecapping efforts to combat Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, or otherwise embolden the Iranian regime. Some lawmakers have pushed for specific provisions guaranteeing the U.S.’ ability to strike Iran and its terrorist proxies.

Buck told Jewish Insider on Friday that it’s premature to speculate on what the new authorization will include, explaining that congressional negotiators will be briefed by intelligence and military leaders starting in September to determine the specific threats that will need to be addressed in a new AUMF. A bill, including a list of groups that the military will be authorized to target, will likely become public in mid to late December, he said.

“We haven’t even started to talk among the working group yet on what it is that would qualify a terrorist organization for military force, and so I think it’s important that we get to that step,” Buck said.

He emphasized, however, that “Iran is the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East” and said that the U.S. will continue to support Israel and “make that our priority.” The new authorization, he continued, should “[reflect] the current state of affairs in not just the Middle East, but around the world.” 

Buck said that McCaul and Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as others involved in the talks agree that the new AUMF should include a four- or five-year sunset provision, to require Congress and the administration to come together periodically to keep the AUMF updated.

He added that the new AUMF will not include geographic restrictions, allowing the military to target groups that move between countries, and will include specific guarantees that the authorizations remain valid if groups change their names.

“That thinking is that we want to give the administration the flexibility to do the right thing, but at the same time, Congress needs to be the one that decides the issue of using military force,” Buck explained.

He added that the final replacement bill will make it “very clear” that the Congress is not leaving the military without the authorities it needs to use military force.

“This isn’t something that is being raised by anti-war or anti-use of military force individuals,” Buck said. “This is something that is a constitutional issue that many of us have felt has been abused for a long time.”

AUMF repeal efforts have been several years in the making — efforts have advanced in recent years to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Iraq AUMFs, including, most recently, a bipartisan Senate vote in favor earlier this year — but have so far failed to gain final passage through both chambers of Congress.

Buck, who voted in 2021 to repeal the 2002 AUMF, said that there’s strong support for bringing the subject to a conclusion this year. But he also acknowledged that passage will require navigating divisions within both parties in the House; navigating politics and procedures in the Senate, where the bill could be waylaid by individual members; and gaining the administration’s sign-off.

“Everybody that I see and talk to wants to come to a good answer now,” Buck said. “I think there’s a number of hurdles to cross, but I think this effort is timely, and I think it has the momentum to be successful.”

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