While the east coast was shut down during a snowstorm, a bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would give an almost unlimited authorization for the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) was quietly pushed through to the Senate on Jan. 20, 2016. The reasoning behind the bill is to give the president of the United States unlimited maneuverability in fighting ISIS both here and abroad. If this bill passes, Congress and the Senate will have given the president an extreme amount of power. Graham’s legislation hasn’t been scheduled for floor time, but the South Carolina Republican said Thursday that a debate should happen “as soon as possible.” (Carney, 2016) It will bypass the normal committee by filing it under Rule 14, and could go to the Senate soon.
The proposed AUMF bill gives the president an extreme amount of power and basically rewrites the War Powers Clause of the United States Constitution. It was pushed through around the same time that a house-approved bill regarding refugees from Syria and Iraq hit the Senate floor. However, the Senate democrats blocked voting on the refugee bill. The refugee bill would have essentially frozen the acceptance of all Iraqi and Syrian refugees entering the United States until a vetting process could be developed to reduce the ISIS threat domestically. The new AUMF bill may not be necessary if a refugee bill such as this actually passed both the House and Senate.
Each governor has the ability to declare martial law in times of emergency, utilizing local law enforcement and their state’s National Guard troops. With this new AUMF bill, the president can declare federal martial law in response to a terrorist threat or event. This can only muddy the water and create issues with jurisdiction during moments of chaos. The United States has declared federal martial law twice in its history (during the Civil War and regionally, along the Pacific coast, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor).
The FBI already enables the United States to combat the ISIS threat without declaring federal martial law or utilizing active-duty military. The FBI’s mission is to develop and act on valuable intelligence in order to stop threats domestically. This already includes the threat of ISIS. The FBI has stopped multiple terrorist plots and attacks since 9/11.
Another concern with this bill would be the level of its specificity. Instead of including ISIS in its terminology, they could include a subjective blanket term of “terrorists.” Technically, any group that opposes the government is considered a terrorist organization. For example, in 2009, an unclassified Department of Homeland Security report warned against the possibility of violence by unnamed “right-wing extremists” concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion, and the loss of U.S. sovereignty. It also singled out returning war veterans as particular threats. (World Net Daily, 2009)
If you own guns and are a constitutionalist, then you could potentially be labeled a terrorist. The DHS report also warns law enforcement that returning combat veterans should be watched closely because they have experience that local militias and “right-wing extremist” groups may want to recruit.
The U.S. Constitution divided the war powers between Congress and the president to prevent a president from having absolute power to send our nation to war. This AUMF bill will only undermine the decisions of our Founding Fathers to balance power, the mission of the FBI, and the power of each state governor. If you still believe that Congress “represents the people,” then that will be lost as well. This bill could lead to an agenda bigger than stopping ISIS.
Carney, J. (2016, January 21). McConnell fast-tracks Graham’s ISIS war bill. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/266583-mcconnell-fast-tracks-isis-war-bill
World Net Daily. (2009, April 12). Homeland Security on guard for ‘right-wing extremists’. Retrieved January 24, 2016, from World Net Daily: http://www.wnd.com/2009/04/94803/
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