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The Decider vs. the AUMF

Yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hinted that one way in which Congress might attempt to rein in the President on the Iraq war is with a new Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Democrats may push a new bill authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- replacing the 2002 bill that allowed the Bush administration to proceed with the war, a top Democrat said Friday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- number two in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- said that is one step Democrats might pursue to change conditions in Iraq.

After a series of congressional hearings on the war, "we will then explore appropriate ways to affect the policy and strategy being pursued in Iraq," Hoyer said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"Possible vehicles" include spending bills for military and diplomatic activities in Iraq "and possibly a revised authorization for the use of military force in Iraq that more accurately reflects the mission of our troops on the ground," he said.

Now at first blush, this might seem like a viable option. But even in my layman's understanding of the legislative process I see several things that make this a tough route to take.

1. The Veto. As with any legislation passed by Congress, this new AUMF will require the President's signature to be ratified. If the bill is not to his liking, which it most certainly will not be, expect a veto. And there may not be enough votes to override.

2. Signing Statements. In the unlikely event that the President does sign off on a new authorization, he will undoubtedly attach a signing statement. This will, in effect, nullify the legislation with an uncheckable veto, as some claim has happened with past issuances of such statements.

3. Prior legislation. I speak of course of the 2001 AUMF passed shortly after the September 11th attacks. Now while this AUMF does not specifically authorize the war in Iraq, it has been cited as partial authorization. Should Congress attempt to alter the Iraq AUMF, expect the 2001 AUMF to be brought to the forefront as to why Bush is still authorized to conduct the war as he see fit.

There is also a far more disturbing thing to consider about any pushback from Congress. It is the possibility that as the President becomes increasingly boxed in, he will look for new ways to show he is not the impotent leader many believe him to be. And that is one decision we do not want left up to our Decision-maker-in-Chief.

Update: Taking a ride in the way back machine, we find then Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner discussing the possibility of a new resolution.
I think we have to examine very carefully what Congress authorized the president to do in the context of a situation if we’re faced with an all-out civil war, and whether we have to come back to the Congress to get further indication of support.

Arguably things have only gotten worse since. So perhaps it is time to reevaluate just what Congress authorized the President to do.

(Filed at State of the Day)