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Top Republican In The Dark On New Military Force Authorization Plans

Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, says he hasn't spoken to Chairman Bob Menendez about any plan to vote on a new AUMF.

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that committee chairman Sen. Bob Menendez hasn't spoken to him about plans for a lame-duck vote on a new authorized use of military force to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Democrats on the panel had said prior to recess that they were committed to trying to pass the measure out of the committee during the lame duck, but Corker said he's heard nothing about it.

"What I'd like to do is have that conversation with him before commenting because he certainly hasn't shared that with me," Corker said. "I was with him yesterday in a hearing and he didn't say anything… I also talked to Secretary Kerry at length yesterday on the phone and an AUMF never came up. I don't know what exactly what the status is."

Menendez reiterated yesterday that he'd work to try and move a bill on his panel. Democrats on the committee met Wednesday night to start crafting a strategy and some language.

"I think we're going to try and move something out of committee next week so we're going to be working on language through out the rest of the week," said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the committee who has long been pushing for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force. "I don't know ultimately if we can get it on to the floor but the sense of the democrats last night was we should move something."

That was news to Corker, who also said he believed the onus was on the White House to come to Congress with a first draft of a request, rather than having members write something themselves.

"The best way for the process to work and the way it's always been done is if the president believes he needs an authorization to do what he's doing then he requests that and he sends over a draft that authorizes the things he wants authorized," Corker said.

Even if a new AUMF passes out of committee, it's unlikely something will pass the full Senate before Republicans take over in January. Murphy said there was a chance they would try and attach it to a must-pass defense spending bill if there was a chance for members to offer amendments to that bill.

"If you're going to have an open amendment process on NDAA you're going to have to vote on something related to authorization because it'll be proposed," he said. "I think we should move an AUMF and there's commitment among democrats to move it expeditiously."

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, said after a meeting with the White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that the administration was looking to have a "pre-agreement" ready for the NDAA instead of having an open amendment process.

"If you open it up than you just open up the world for debating ISIL, Iran, you pick it," he said.

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 kate.nocera@buzzfeed.com.

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