WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republicans Senators sharply criticized Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration Tuesday for not crafting their own language for a new authorization to fight against ISIS and forcing the committee to come up with their own draft.
"There's a famous movie that says show me the money. Show us the language," Menendez said at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the new authorization.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Bob Menendez, have crafted a new authorized use of military force (AUMF) for the U.S to combat ISIS.
Kerry said the administration generally supported the basic principles of the Menendez language, but they were seeking to work out issues that would "pre-emptively bind the hands of the Commander-in-Chief" specifically on the length of the time the AUMF would be active and the use of ground troops.
Menendez in particular expressed frustration with Kerry's assertion that the administration wanted to work with Congress to come up with a new AUMF.
"We have shared several draft texts with the white house counsel, to be very honest with you we get very little in response," he said.
The debate this week around the AUMF has been building for months, as Senate Democrats in particular have grown louder in their unease with relying on the 2001 AUMF to combat ISIS.
Kerry was insistent at the hearing that the administration desired a new authorized use of military force (AUMF) but they did not need one for the current fight against ISIS, relying instead on the 2001 and 2002 AUMF.
Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking member on the committee, pushed Kerry on whether the Obama administration needed additional authority for their current operation to which Kerry replied "very clearly, yes" under the 2001 AUMF and parts of the 2002 legislation.
Kerry then suggested that if Congress were to pass an "ISIL-specific" AUMF, the administration would support language to make that AUMF "the vehicle for authority and not the 2001 and that will give comfort to a lot of people."
Additionally, at that point, the administration would support the repeal of the 2002 AUMF.
Kerry added several times the President had no desire to send troops into combat, but he did not want to rule out any hypothetical scenarios in which ground troops would be needed.
The Foreign Relations committee draft would give that AUMF a three-year duration, which Kerry said the administration supported "subject to provisions for extension."
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, was another member on the committee who was confused as to why the administration hadn't submitted language of its own.
"After all that time why, why hasn't the administration sent us a draft proposal? It's been pretty much the history of previous presidents and that would make sense. The commander in chief would kind of like to lay out the actions he would want and he would believe are necessary," Johnson said.
"As I said I think you've got a pretty good draft," Kerry replied.
Menendez is committed to passing his bill out of the Foreign Relations committee this week although it is unlikely it will be voted on the Senate floor this session of Congress.
"It's important for us to begin the process now, even if we can't get it across the finish line," Sen. Chris Murphy told BuzzFeed News prior to the hearing. "This year will make it easier to pass something next year if we've begun the discussions in earnest. It's something different to vaguely talk about an AUMF and actually putting pen to paper. So even if we don't get something passed until next year, this exercise of really having members flesh out what they're willing to vote for is important."
Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
Contact Kate Nocera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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