Sen. Hagerty drafts bill on war-powers authority: ‘I’m loath to ever unilaterally take leverage off the table’

Sen. Bill Hagerty says he has drafted legislation that he says will wrest most congressional war-powers authority back from the Executive Branch through the repeal of an outdated authorization dating back to when Saddam Hussein was still alive and running Iraq.

The bill replaces the outdated Saddam-era authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) with updated language that is more apropos for current foreign-based national security challenges facing the United States, including the terrorist-sponsoring Iranian regime.

“As a lifelong businessman, as a former diplomat, I’m loath to ever unilaterally take leverage off the table, unless we’re getting something for it, or unless we simultaneously put another card back on the table,” the Tennessee Republican and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan said.

Hagerty, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had urged the panel’s chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), to hold hearings Wednesday to allow members to either repeal or keep in place two separate AUMFs dating back to the 1991 Gulf War and in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.

He went on to say that he thinks updated authorizations from Congress are a necessity because state terrorism sponsors and non-state terrorist actors are continuing to foment and launch attacks on Americans as well as U.S. allies throughout the Middle East.

“The Executive Branch will only be in a stronger position if Congress authorizes it to defend Americans in harm’s way,” Hagerty said.

“That’s why I’ve authored legislative language that would do three things: First, it would repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military in Iraq. Second, it would authorize the President to defend our national security interests against continuing threats that are posed by terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism operating in Iraq. And third, it would authorize the President to prevent and respond to attacks against Americans by terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism who were operating in Iraq,” he added.

Meantime, Hagerty also asked Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to give a written response to the legislation he’s proposed ahead of a committee vote on Wednesday.

Hagerty urged Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to provide written feedback on the legislative language that he has proposed before the committee votes to sustain or repeal Wednesday.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Times on Monday, Hagerty argued that the United States must avoid “endless wars” while continuing to ensure that whoever is president retains the necessary authority to defend the country in today’s fast-changing threat environment.

“Congress must consider two fundamental duties as it debates this issue. The first is to ensure that the United States does not languish in endless conflicts based on outdated authorizations long after we’ve achieved our original objectives,” he wrote. “The second is to ensure that our Commander-in-Chief has the authority to act immediately and decisively when necessary to defend American citizens and American interests.”

He went on to discuss “two competing schools of thought” regarding the issue.

“One school contends the authorizations for military force against Saddam Hussein’s regime are outdated and have been stretched far beyond their original intent,” the Tennessee Republican wrote, noting he agrees with that position.

The other point, he said, is that though Hussein is “long gone,” Americans and American interests in Iraq remain under threat by Iran and that the regime in Tehran must be convinced of U.S. resolve and commitment to the region and to Washington’s allies.

“This side argues that, if in the face of Iran-backed terrorism, Congress removes the Commander-in-Chief’s explicit authority to defend our people in Iraq, the emboldened Iranian mullahs will trumpet it as a victory and double-down on their aggression and terrorism in the region and around the world,” Hagerty wrote, adding: “I share these concerns as well.”

Jon Dougherty

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