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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, September 14, 2017 1:00 am

Senate turns back new war document

Old law available to White House

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Wednesday rejected a bipartisan push for a new war authorization against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, electing to let the White House rely on a 16-year-old law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks as the legal basis to send U.S. troops into combat.

Senators voted 61-36 to scuttle an amendment to the annual defense policy bill by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have allowed war authorizations, created in the wake of al-Qaida's 9/11 strikes, to lapse after six months. Paul, a leader of the GOP's noninterventionist wing, said Congress would use the time to debate an updated war authority for operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen before the old ones expired.

Paul criticized his colleagues ahead of the vote, urging them to embrace their war-making responsibility instead of surrendering their power to the White House. He and senators who backed his amendment said former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump have used the war authorizations from 2001 and 2002 for military operations in countries that Congress never voted to support.

Opponents of Paul's amendment warned that his plan would backfire.

Voting to rescind existing war authorities without a replacement risks leaving U.S. troops and commanders without the necessary legal authority they need to carry out military operations. Opponents said they worried Congress would not approve a new law in the six-month window.

“You can't replace something with nothing. And we have nothing,” said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Armed Services Committee chairman, voted against Paul's measure because he said it would leave U.S. troops in legal limbo.