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Senators May Limit President's Use of Force Authority

Image: Senators May Limit President's Use of Force Authority Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, talks with committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

By Melanie Batley   |   Tuesday, 07 May 2013 09:21 AM

Senators on both sides of the aisle appear to be leaning toward restricting the president's ability to use military force by revising the congressional resolution authorizing military action after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

According to Politico, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin has been engaged in talks with fellow Democrat Dick Durbin and Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker about revising the 9/11 use of military force authorization to possibly rein in what some see as the expanded use of the resolution by President Barack Obama.

"The whole issue is a very complex issue," Levin told Politico. "It's the complexity of the issue that needs to be dealt with."

Levin has scheduled a committee hearing on the matter for May 16.

The initial use-of-force resolution passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, stated the president was "authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

During the last dozen years, former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have both relied on the resolution to strengthen and even widen their national security policies, including Bush's decision to invade Afghanistan and Obama's expanded use of armed drones against suspected terrorists.

"We need to sit down among ourselves as senators and ask a very timely question. And that is whether the [Authorization of Use of Military Force, or AUMF] that we voted for in 2001 — every senator did who was serving at the time — whether that still serves America's defense needs today," Durban told Politico.

"None of us, not one who voted for it, could have envisioned we were voting for the longest war in American history or that we were about to give future presidents the authority to fight terrorism as far flung as Yemen and Somalia. I don't think any of us envisioned that possibility."

McCain said he was also concerned the resolution has since been applied too broadly.

"We need to have discussions on this," McCain said, according to Politico. "Sen. Levin is going to have hearings. When you look at the wording on the resolution, it says, 'Those who were responsible for 9/11.' Twelve years later, it's being used for other things."

Politico reported that McCain and Corker are working on a new resolution that would supercede the one passed more than 12 years ago. It would likely be narrower, restricting the president's ability to invoke it only in cases of fighting al-Qaida, for instance, and giving more congressional oversight on other decisions to combat terror threats.

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