BOSTON (CBS) — Who should decide when the US should take military action?
The president alone? Or should Congress have a say?
It’s been 15 years since the legal authority for a president to go to war has been updated.
And with an administration in power promising to get more aggressive with the war on terror, some on Capitol Hill say it’s time to make congressional approval part of the picture again.
From the early days of our democracy, the president has had the power to go to war to defend us against attack. But since 9-11, congressional sign-off has been bypassed by a blanket authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF.
“If it’s not defense against an imminent threat and you need to go on offense, you oughta get congressional approval,” says Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), co-sponsor of a bi-partisan push to bring Congress back into the decision-making process.
Adds his co-sponsor Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia): “That’s obviously to deal with this notion of an open-ended perpetual war that has come about when you dont have an authorization with an end date.”
President Trump’s April strike on a Syrian airfield, launched without congressional approval, has ignited this debate. The Flake-Kaine AUMF would specify who and where the president can attack, and require periodic re-authorization. It would ok use of force against Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their offshoots in regions where we’re already active, and require congressional approval for any expansion of that.
“It is so much more powerful for the president when he travels abroad, when he engages our allies and our adversaries, for them to know that we speak with one voice,” says Flake.
And the senators insist reinserting the voice of Congress will reassure the people doing the fighting.
“What our young men and women need, and it’s virtually all that they need, is the belief that what they’re doing has meaning, value and the support of the American people,” says Kaine.