The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment that would revoke a 2001 law giving the president authority to undertake war against al Qaeda and its affiliates unless a replacement provision is created.

Lawmakers applauded when the amendment was added by voice vote to the defense spending bill, highlighting the frustration many members of Congress feel about the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was initially approved to authorize the response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It has since been used to justify the Iraq War and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee of California — one of countless she has offered in recent years — is only a modest first step in getting Congress to update the authorization of military force that lawmakers adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Thursday’s voice vote in the GOP-controlled Appropriations Committee is a symbolic move forward.

Even Republicans with military experience embraced Lee’s defense spending bill amendment, which would repeal the 2001 authorization. They noted that the anti-terror struggle has evolved markedly since the days when U.S. troops hunted Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan, yet Congress has never debated and authorized the fight against newer extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


Congresswoman Barbara Lee, representing California’s 13th district and member of the House Appropriations Committee, chats with Rachel Maddow on the amendment. The video is below the text.

Rachel Maddow:

“She’s been a voice in the wilderness trying to get Congress to vote on military force, to debate military force, to stop relying all these years later on the last time they did that in 2001 after 9/11. Today years after trying to get it done, she got her amendment passed to do just that. It was approved in committee today, tons of bipartisan support. An apparent miracle. Spontaneous applause. Am I right that even you were caught by surprise?”

Rep. Lee:

“This is really a big deal. I was cautiously optimistic and I’ll tell you why. I have been working day and night and talking with republicans and democrats at least for 10 years of how why we should repeal this authorization. And I have tried every which way through amendments through appropriations, through amendments on the defense authorization bill, through freestanding legislation. I think the last time we got about 140 votes on the floor, somewhere around that. And so we’ve been building, I’ve been working very hard with my colleagues to try to get to this point. And so this was a major victory, I think, for the American people, for our young men and women in uniform, and for the country because Congress must stop being missing in action in matters on war and peace.”

Rachel Maddow:

“If this passes, it would give the Congress 8 months… a good long amount of time… to come up with a new authorization for the use of military force. Something new to declare that authorization so we’re no longer relying on what happened back 16 years ago.”

Rep. Lee:

“Right. So upon the signing of this legislation, it would stay in effect for 8 months to give us time to debate the pros and cons of a new authorization to use force, debate the issues, and then vote up or down on a new authorization. The 2001 authorization, it was passed in three days with a couple of hours of debate. I don’t even think it was two hours of debate. And so Congress can and should pass a resolution in 8 months because the American people deserve this. It’s our job. We have been missing in action. And I’m so pleased that we had bipartisan support to do this.

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