Islamic State

Reactions to the ISIL-Specific AUMF

By Zoe Bedell
Friday, February 13, 2015, 2:24 PM

Below you will find a compilation of public statements and reactions to President Obama’s draft ISIL-specific AUMF.  In short: Democrats are concerned there aren't enough limits, and Republicans can’t understand why President Obama is not being aggressive enough. (And of course, Jack Goldsmith finds it hard to fathom.)


Speaker John Boehner

ISIL is at war with our country and our allies.  If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options.  Any authorization for the use of military force must give our military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people.  While I believe an AUMF against ISIL is important, I have concerns that the president’s request does not meet this standard.  Now we will begin hearings and rigorous oversight so lawmakers and the public can provide their input.  Ultimately, our objective is to show the world that the United States is resolute in our commitment to destroy ISIL. [Speaker's website]

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

I have been supportive of efforts to give the Commander-in-Chief additional authorities to confront these growing challenges, but rather than expanding his legal authority to go after ISIL, the President seems determined to ask Congress to further restrict the authority of the U.S. military to confront this threat.

“The Speaker and I told the President we’d consider his request.  I am prepared to support an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that provides new legal authorities to go after ISIL and other terrorist groups. However, I will not support efforts that impose undue restrictions on the U.S. military and make it harder to win. [full statement here]

Senator Bob Corker

I appreciate the president following the long tradition of seeking authorization for the use of military force from Congress. . . It also will be important that the president exert leadership, lay out a clear strategy for confronting the threat posed by ISIS, and do the hard work of making the case to the American people why this fight is necessary and one we must win. We will quickly begin to hold rigorous hearings where the administration will have an opportunity to provide Congress and the American people greater clarity on the U.S. strategy to address ISIS, particularly in Syria. Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat. [Senator Corker's website]

Senator John McCain

I am pleased that the President has finally taken the important step of proposing an AUMF to the Congress. However, I have deep concerns about aspects of this proposed authorization, including limitations placed on the constitutional authority of the commander-in-chief, the failure to articulate an objective for the use of military force, and a narrow definition of strategy that seeks to separate the fight against ISIL from the underlying conflict in Syria and the Assad regime’s responsibility for this growing terrorist threat. This is a recipe for failure. [full statement here]

Senator Ted Cruz

For several months the Obama Administration has been engaging in military conduct without authorization from Congress, and it is long past time for the White House to seek an AUMF from Congress, which is the only body that has the constitutional authority to declare war.  It will be beneficial to have serious public hearings and debates over the plan that was presented.  Congress should strengthen the AUMF by making sure the President is committed to clear objectives and a specific plan to accomplish those goals. That should begin by clearly defining the enemy as ‘radical Islamic terrorists.’  We will not be able to win the war against radical Islamic terrorism as long as our Commander-in-Chief refuses to recognize who it is we are fighting. [Senator Cruz's website]

Senator Marco Rubio

I would say there is a pretty simple authorization he could ask for, and it would read one sentence. And that is: ‘We authorize the President to defeat and destroy ISIL, period.’ And that’s, I think, what we need to do. [MSNBC]

Senator Rand Paul

The disaster that is Libya is now a breeding ground for terrorists, and it’s also a breeding ground for armament. So I really do blame Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya for creating a lot of the chaos that is now spreading throughout the Middle East. [MSNBC]

Governor Bobby Jindal

Yesterday, Americans watched President Obama telegraph in detail what we are willing and not willing to do to defeat ISIS terrorists. No one can possibly explain why our Commander in Chief would do this. It's just an inexcusable approach to military strategy. President Obama does not like to use the words Radical Islam. The President refuses to own up to the challenges we face. He is letting this threat fester and and it's metastasizing by the day. [NBC News]

Rick Santorum

[Wednesday's] request for war authorization against ISIS by President Obama puts our nation in an untenable position. To limit our commitment to fighting this existential threat to just three years is shortsighted and shows a complete misunderstanding of who our enemy is, what they believe, and what motivates them. To further complicate this request, the President's decision to put limitations on ground combat options forces our military to fight this war with one hand tied behind its back. [NBC News]


Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Today, the President has submitted a serious and thoughtful draft for a new AUMF, one which ends the outdated 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq war, restricts the use of ground troops, and includes other important limiting provisions going forward.

Congress should act judiciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF narrowly-tailored to the war against ISIS.  I look forward to constructive bipartisan debate on this matter immediately. [full statement here]

Senator Bob Menendez

I welcome the Administration laying out the type of authorization they are seeking, and look forward to their continued involvement and engagement in order to achieve congressional approval of an AUMF. It is vitally important that we act together to send ISIL a clear and unified message that they will be defeated.  My longstanding view remains that the 9/11 AUMF should not serve as the legal basis for this fight against ISIL, nor should the 2002 Iraq AUMF. That is why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year led on this issue and passed an AUMF. [full statement here]

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

The Administration’s decision to pursue a congressionally approved AUMF is long overdue, and debating and passing a narrowly-defined authorization of force is critical to strengthening our country’s fight against ISIS. [full statement here]

Senator Tim Kaine

The administration’s draft authorization reflects consultations with Congress and includes many provisions I support, such as a repeal of the 2002 authorization and a 3-year sunset.  But I am concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language and will seek to clarify it. As the Foreign Relations Committee prepares to take up this draft authorization, I look forward to a robust debate, along with amendments and votes, that will inform the American public about our mission and further refine this authorization to ensure that the U.S. is vigorously assisting nations willing to battle their own terrorist threat rather than carrying the unsustainable burden of policing a region that won't police itself. [Senator Kaine's website]

Senator Richard Blumenthal

I am insistent that it needs to be narrowed or clarified or specified so that we are not in effect authorizing open ended operations. [MSNBC]

Senator Elizabeth Warren

I am deeply concerned by the rise of ISIS, and I support a strong, coordinated response — but I also believe it is critical for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to play a leading role in this fight, and I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East. A vote to authorize military force is one of the most important and consequential actions that a Senator can take — and I intend to review this proposal carefully and deliberately before coming to a decision. [The Hill]

Martin O'Malley

The new AUMF should address ISIS specifically, and mitigate any unintended consequences by including clear language on the use of ground troops and the length and terms of engagement. [Facebook]

Senator Chris Coons

Congress still has work to do, though, in finding a way to authorize this necessary fight without bogging down our nation and our troops in an endless conflict. [CBS News]

Senator Bernie Saunders

I oppose sending U.S. ground troops into combat in another bloody war in the Middle East. I therefore cannot support the resolution in its current form without clearer limitations on the role of U.S. combat troops. [full statement here]