Congressman McGovern Leads House Debate on Bipartisan Resolution to Force Congress to Take Up AUMF for U.S. War with ISIS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, is leading debate on the House floor ahead of a vote on H. Con. Res. 55, his bipartisan resolution that would force Congress to debate an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for U.S. military engagement against ISIS.
“For over 10 months, the United States has been engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Syria without debating an authorization for this war,” Congressman McGovern said. “Over 4 months ago, the President sent to Congress the text for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force on combating the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, yet Congress has failed to act on that AUMF, or bring an alternative to the House floor, even though we continue to authorize and appropriate money for sustained military operations in those countries.
“If Congress had lived up to its responsibilities, we wouldn’t need to be so blunt,” McGovern added. “Congress needs a clear deadline for a debate an AUMF for Iraq and Syria. That deadline is the withdrawal of our troops by the end of this year. It gives this House, this Republican Leadership, six entire months to get an AUMF enacted. It gives this House, this Leadership, six more months in which to simply do their job.”
Today’s debate and vote comes less than two weeks after the bipartisan concurrent resolution, under the provisions of the War Powers Resolution, was introduced by McGovern along with Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).
McGovern has been a leading voice in Congress calling for House Republican Leadership to honor their Constitutional duty as the leaders of the House to bring to the floor an AUMF for a debate and vote.
McGovern introduced a similar resolution in July 2014 and a revised version of that resolution passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 370-40, but the House Republican Leadership has refused to bring an AUMF to the floor for a vote in the 10 months since U.S. combat operations began – even after President Obama sent a draft AUMF request in February.
The full text of Congressman McGovern’s speech is below.
As Prepared For Delivery:
“M. Chairman, I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 55, which comes before the House today under the provisions of the War Powers Resolution. Along with my colleagues Walter Jones and Barbara Lee, we introduced this bipartisan bill to force a debate on how Congress has failed to carry out its Constitutional duty to authorize our military engagement in Iraq and Syria.
“Last August, the President authorized airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. For over 10 months, the United States has been engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Syria without debating an authorization for this war. On February 11th this year, over 4 months ago, the President sent to Congress the text for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force on combating the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, yet Congress has failed to act on that AUMF, or bring an alternative to the House floor, even though we continue to authorize and appropriate money for sustained military operations in those countries.
“This is unacceptable. This House appears to have no problem sending our uniformed men and women into harm’s way; it appears to have no problem spending billions of dollars for the arms, equipment and airpower to carry out these wars; but it just can’t bring itself to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these wars.
“Our service men and women are brave and dedicated. Congress, however, is guilty of moral cowardice. The Republican Leadership of this House whines and complains from the sidelines, and all the while it shirks its Constitutional duties to bring an AUMF to the floor of this House, debate it and vote on it.
“This resolution requires the President to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Syria within 30 days or no later than the end of this year, December 31, 2015. If this House approves this resolution, Congress would still have 6 months in which to do the right thing and bring an AUMF before the House and Senate for debate and action. Either Congress needs to live up to its responsibilities and authorize this war, or by its continuing neglect and indifference, our troops should be withdrawn and come home. It’s that simple.
“Two weeks ago, General John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL, said that this fight may take ‘a generation or more.’ And according to the Pentagon, we have spent more than $2.74 billion in the fight against the Islamic State. That’s roughly $9.1 million each and every day. We have approximately 3500 boots on the ground and that number is rising.
“If we are going to invest a generation or more of our blood and our treasure in this war; and if we’re going to continue to tell our Armed Forces that we expect them to fight and die in these wars; it seems to me the least we can do is stand up and vote to authorize these wars, or we should end them. We owe that to the American people; we owe that to our troops and their families; and we owe that to the oath of office each of us took to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
“M. Chairman, we’re going to hear all kinds of crazy today about this resolution. Some Members will say that it demands the withdrawal of our troops in 30 days. Well that’s true if you only read half a sentence in the bill; the other half makes clear the President has until the end of the year to withdraw our troops.
“Some Members will claim this resolution will undercut our troops while they are carrying out bombing campaigns and training Iraqi and Syrian soldiers under dangerous conditions. They will claim it will deny the Iraqis and the Kurds our critical support in the fight against the brutal terror and threat of ISIS. They will claim it will leave ISIS unchecked by U.S. airpower and allow them to overrun the region.
“The truth is that it is precisely these threats and challenges that make this debate so urgent. With such compelling issues at hand, how can Congress stand by and do nothing? How can Congress not have this debate and vote on an authorization for this war?
“By setting a clear deadline Congress cannot ignore, this resolution provides a strong guarantee that Congress will finally do its job. That Congress will honor its duty to our troops and all Americans by debating and voting on an authorization for this war. Our troops deserve a Congress that has the courage to stand with them.
“I see the courage and sacrifice of our uniformed men and women, but I see nothing but cowardice from the House Republican leadership of this Congress. If they believe we should send our military forces to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS and possibly die over there, then for heaven’s sake, we should do our duty; we should do our job; and bring an AUMF to the House floor, debate it and take some responsibility for this war.
“That’s all this resolution is trying to do. Give the House Republican leadership a deadline that even they can’t ignore – either enact an AUMF over the next 6 months or withdraw our forces from Iraq and Syria. One or the other.
“M. Chairman, I am deeply troubled by our policy in Iraq and Syria. I do not believe it is a clearly defined mission – and I fear it might be just more of the same. I am not convinced that by enlarging our military footprint, we will end the violence in the region; defeat the Islamic State; or address the underlying causes of the unrest.
“But regardless of whether you support the war or oppose the war, believe we should escalate our involvement or place restrictions on it, the bottom line is that Congress needs to debate an AUMF and vote on it.
“That’s our duty. That’s our job. And if we don’t have the guts to do so, then we should at least have the decency to bring our troops home to their families and loved ones.
“I hope each Member of this House, before they come down to the floor to vote on this resolution, takes a minute to look in the mirror. Ask yourself: Why do we get to go home to our families when our troops don’t have that privilege? They have been sent to Iraq and Syria to fight in our name, but we don’t have the courage to stand up for them and authorize the war – and we don’t have the guts to bring them home?
“Take a minute and ask: We’re willing to send our troops into danger; we’re willing to spend billions upon billions of borrowed money for this war; but we’re not willing to carry out our Constitutional duty, the same Constitution we keep asking our troops to put their lives on the line to protect? How can we keep asking them to sacrifice for us, when we’re not willing to put anything on the line for them?
“This resolution is, I admit, a bit of a blunt instrument. But if Congress had lived up to its responsibilities, we wouldn’t need to be so blunt. Congress needs a clear deadline for a debate on an AUMF for Iraq and Syria. That deadline is the withdrawal of our troops by the end of this year. It gives this House, this Republican Leadership, six entire months to get an AUMF enacted. It gives this House, this Leadership, six more months in which to simply do their job.
“A vote for this resolution is not a vote to pull out. It’s a vote to give the House Republican leadership a deadline they can’t ignore. To force them to do their duty as the leaders of this House by finally bringing an AUMF to the floor for a vote.
“I urge my colleagues to vote in support of H. Con. Res. 55, and I yield back the balance of my time.”