Bipartisan Senate pair introduce new military force authorization against terror groups

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of crying crocodile tears for FBI Director James Comey's firing. 

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Last Updated May 25, 2017 2:16 PM EDT

A bipartisan pair of senators introduced a measure Thursday that would replace the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) from 2001 that presidents have relied on to fight terrorists overseas.

The new AUMF proposed by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, would authorize force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al Qaeda and the Taliban. This would update the authorization Congress passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Lawmakers previously introduced an AUMF in 2015 that would have only targeted ISIS.

"When I voted in 2001 to authorize military force against the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks, I had no idea I would be authorizing armed conflict for more than fifteen years, and counting," Flake said in a statement.

Flake, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it's "past time for Congress" to "reassert some of the authority it has abdicated over the years."

"We've heard repeatedly from our nation's military leaders that passing an AUMF would send an important signal of support to the troops and that we must continue to dismantle terrorist organizations in a more systematic manner," Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, added in a statement.

In addition to authorizing military force, their new AUMF would establish a process for congressional oversight of what forces or people can be treated as being associated with ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban and a process for oversight of where fighting can occur beyond Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It would repeal the 2001 AUMF against those behind the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 AUMF against Iraq. It would sunset after five years, but offer an expedited process to reauthorize it before it expires. The president would also be required under the bill to deliver a strategy to Congress on fighting these terror groups.

In April, a bipartisan group of 46 lawmakers called on Speaker Paul Ryan to revive the debate over a new AUMF in the Middle East, but there has been little traction.

Congress hasn't been able to reach a consensus on an AUMF for several years because lawmakers disagree about the scope of a new authorization. First, there are those who believe that an update to the 2001 AUMF is not needed, while others think a new one is necessary because the 2001 version is outdated and irrelevant because of its focus on only al Qaeda. But within that latter camp, there are lawmakers from both parties who want to dramatically limit the scope of the president's authority and others who are more hawkish and want to ensure broad, expanded authority.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.