After weeks of anticipation, the White House has finally sent a draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force to Congress to receive approval for employing limited force against the Islamic State.
The request from the Obama administration would give the president the authority to use the U.S. armed forces as he sees fit "against ISIL or associated persons or forces." The administration defines "associated persons or forces" as "individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
The request does not authorize the use of armed forces in "enduring offensive ground combat operations" and it would also repeal the 2002 Authorization of Military Force Against Iraq. The authorization would last three years after enactment unless it is reauthorized, and the president would be required to update Congress at least once every six months on "specific actions taken pursuant to this authorization." There are not, however, clear geographical limitations.
Obama's draft, given the short title "Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," specifically mentions the deaths of American citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller.
The president will deliver a statement on the request from the White House at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Now that lawmakers on Capitol Hill have received the official AUMF language they've spent months asking the White House for, they're expected to begin altering it.
Generally, Democrats are concerned about the prohibition on "enduring offensive ground troops" and the lack of any other restrictions against American boots on the ground. "What's enduring? What's offensive?" Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, after a briefing from the administration on Tuesday. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., also expressed concern "about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language" in a statement.
Republicans, meanwhile, are voicing growing worries about the administration's overall strategy against ISIL, which the document spends precious little words addressing.
Both points will be the focus of congressional hearings over the next month or more. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said this week that his committee is already preparing for hearings on the AUMF legislation, but with Congress scheduled to be on break all of next week, the real wrangling over the bill won't begin until the end of the month at least.
Members will have the opportunity to amend the AUMF in committee, as well as on the floor, Corker said Tuesday. The Republican chairman did say, however, that he would keep the White House in the loop on any changes to the AUMF, given the seriousness of the matter.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that Senate Republicans would meet to discuss the request Wednesday afternoon, led by Sens. Corker and John McCain. "Individual senators and committees of jurisdiction will review it carefully, and they'll listen closely to the advice of military commanders as they consider the best strategy for defeating ISIL," McConnell said in a statement.
Members of the House, meanwhile, were just being briefed on the document Wednesday morning. The request did not immediately land well with House Speaker John Boehner. "Any Authorization for the use of Military Force must give our military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people," he said in a statement. "While I believe an AUMF against ISIL is important, I have concerns that the president's request does not meet this standard."
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the draft "serious and thoughtful" and said, "Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly tailored to the war against ISIS." At a Democratic caucus press briefing Wednesday morning, Pelosi elaborated somewhat, saying, "Our members of our caucus have questions, as do I, about what does this language actually means, because we're seeing it for the first time. I think that's a healthy debate, and I hope that there can be common ground that is found."
Democratic doves and libertarian-leaning Republicans have raised concerns about the administration's decision to sunset the 2002 Iraq War Authorization, while leaving in place the much more broadly defined 2001 AUMF authorizing the president to use force against any entities deemed related to the September 11 attacks. "It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the executive's war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere," Rep. Chris Van Hollen said in a Wednesday statement.
Rep. Josephy Crowley, vice-chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said Wednesday, "There's some healthy skepticism within our caucus. ... Many of my colleagues in our caucus have been through this before."
One other point of controversy is that the current request would stretch into the presidency of Obama's successor.
"Unless that is further defined, that might be seen as too big a statement to ultimately embrace," Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said. "Because, forget about Barack Obama. There will be a new president in two years. And this authorization would go into that new presidency."
The full draft resolution is here and below.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
To authorize the limited use of the United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Whereas the terrorist organization that has referred to itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and various other names (in this resolution referred to as ''ISIL'') poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners;
Whereas ISIL holds significant territory in Iraq and Syria and has stated its intention to seize more territory and demonstrated the capability to do so;
Whereas ISIL leaders have stated that they intend to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests;
Whereas ISIL has committed despicable acts of violence and mass executions against Muslims, regardless of sect, who do not subscribe to ISIL's depraved, violent, and oppressive ideology;
Whereas ISIL has threatened genocide and committed vicious acts of violence against religious and ethnic minority groups, including Iraqi Christian, Yezidi, and Turkmen populations;
Whereas ISIL has targeted innocent women and girls with horrific acts of violence, including abduction, enslavement, torture, rape, and forced marriage;
Whereas ISIL is responsible for the deaths of innocent United States citizens, including James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller;
Whereas the United States is working with regional and global allies and partners to degrade and defeat ISIL, to cut off its funding, to stop the flow of foreign fighters to its ranks, and to support local communities as they reject ISIL;
Whereas the announcement of the anti-ISIL Coalition on September 5, 2014, during the NATO Summit in Wales, stated that ISIL poses a serious threat and should be countered by a broad international coalition;
Whereas the United States calls on its allies and partners, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa that have not already done so to join and participate in the anti-ISIL Coalition;
Whereas the United States has taken military action against ISIL in accordance with its inherent right of individual and collective self-defense;
Whereas President Obama has repeatedly expressed his commitment to working with Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force for the anti-ISIL military campaign; and
Whereas President Obama has made clear that in this campaign it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground instead of large-scale deployments of U.S. ground forces: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This joint resolution may be cited as the "Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."
SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) AUTHORIZATION.—The President is authorized, subject to the limitations in subsection (c), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL or associated persons or forces as defined in section 5.
(b) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS.—
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION.—Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1547(a)(1)), Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544(b)).
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS.—Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).
The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.
SEC. 3. DURATION OF THIS AUTHORIZATION.
This authorization for the use of military force shall terminate three years after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, unless reauthorized.
SEC. 4. REPORTS.
The President shall report to Congress at least once every six months on specific actions taken pursuant to this authorization.
SEC. 5. ASSOCIATED PERSONS OR FORCES DEFINED.
In this joint resolution, the term ''associated persons or forces'' means individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.
SEC. 6. REPEAL OF AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107"“ 243; 116 Stat. 1498; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) is hereby repealed.
Rebecca Nelson, Alex Brown, and Rachel Roubein contributed to this article