Speaker Paul Ryan this week secretly removed a provision from the House version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have reinstated a degree of Congressional oversight on military engagement authorized by the White House.
On June 29, in a surprise move, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the NDAA that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The amendment, submitted by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), would have removed the authorization passed by Congress in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 attacks, which has since been used to justify unending U.S. military activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, and several other countries. The Lee amendment would have required Congress to reclaim its oversight responsibilities and debate a new AUMF for the war against ISIS.
While Rep. Lee had introduced similar amendments in years past, the unexpected support from Republican representatives signaled a new desire in Congress to act as a check on the White House and the military and to pass a new AUMF that would be more limited than its 2001 predecessor.
In spite of bipartisan support for the amendment, Speaker Ryan decided to remove the provision before the bill went to the House floor for a vote. On Twitter, Lee said Ryan stripped the amendment “ in the dead of night,” and called the move “undemocratic.”
“Our democracy demands transparency and public debate on issues as fundamentally important to Americans as engaging in war.” said OTG Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “By removing the Lee amendment from the NDAA, Speaker Ryan has not only upended necessary democratic processes, but has chosen to abdicate Congressional oversight and allow the White House to continue engaging in wars without meaningful accountability to the public.”