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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would prohibit funding the use of force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, effective on December 31, 2014, when the last American combat troops will rotate out of Afghanistan and the responsibility for security will have passed to the Afghan people after more than 13 years of war in that country.

New Year's Day 2015 should not only bring about a new relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, it should also mark the end of a conflict that was begun in our skies on that September morning and which was formalized days later when the Congress passed the AUMF.

That legislation provided the President with the authority to use ``force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 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.''

The 2001 AUMF was never intended to authorize a war without end, and it now poorly defines those who pose a threat to our country. That authority and the funding that goes along with it should expire concurrent with the end of our combat role in Afghanistan.

In addition to this amendment, I have introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2324, which sunsets the AUMF effective the same date, December 31, 2014, and calls on the administration to work with Congress together to determine what new authority, if any, is necessary to protect the country after that time.

The Constitution vests the Congress with the power to declare war and the responsibility of appropriating funds to pay for it. It is our most awesome responsibility and central to our military efforts overseas. We owe it to the men and women we send into combat to properly define and authorize their mission, and my amendment will effectively give Congress the next 16 months to do so.

In his recent speech at National Defense University, President Obama specifically called on Congress to work with him:

I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate, and I will not sign any laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue, but this war, like all wars, must end.

This amendment is a prudent first step towards meeting the President's challenge, a call that we must embrace, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Members of Congress sworn to defend the Constitution.

I urge a ``yes'' vote and reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. SCHIFF. I want to yield to my colleague from Indiana. Before I do, two quick points.

No one is suggesting, of course, that terrorism is going to go away in 16 months or all of our problems will be over. But what we are saying with this amendment is that the authorization we passed that authorizes force against those who planned, authorized, and committed the 9/11 attacks shouldn't be used to go after groups like al Shabaab, which may not even have been in existence at the time of 9/11.

This AUMF is now outdated; and unless we have a sunset date, we're going to continue to rely on an AUMF that no longer describes the nature of the conflict we're in.

With that, I yield to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Visclosky).


Mr. SCHIFF. I would only say to my colleague, through the Chair, that this institution has proved that unless we have a deadline, we simply refuse to act.

What the President has said in terms of any new authorization for use of force--and it's something I agree wholeheartedly with the White House--is that he won't support a new authorization that is broader than the one that we seek to sunset. That, I think, is a problem with some of the drafts which the majority has proposed.

We don't want an expanded war. We do want an authorization that reflects the precise nature of the threat, and that threat has changed since 9/11. It no longer comes as much from the core of al Qaeda, which has been decimated; rather, it comes now from a group of franchises, loosely affiliated organizations that sometimes, as a product of convenience, will associate with al Qaeda for financing or legitimacy. But it is now a far-flung terrorist challenge, and any authorization ought to reflect the changing nature of threat.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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