As we blogged last week, a hugely important provision for Congress to authorize a new worldwide war has been tucked away inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill was marked up by members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) last Wednesday that poured into Thursday morning (2:45 a.m. to be exact).
A couple of minutes past midnight, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) offered an amendment to strike Sec. 1034 — the new authorization for worldwide war provision — from the NDAA. Visibly angry that such a large sweeping provision had not yet had any public hearing whatsoever, he vigorously characterized it as a very broad declaration of war.
Rep. Garamendi was very concerned by the limitless geographic boundaries of the provision. Essentially, it would enable the U.S. to use military force anywhere in the world (including within the U.S.) in search of terrorists.
He also alluded to the idea that the HASC might not have proper jurisdiction over such a provision in the first place, suggesting that it would be an issue for the House Foreign Affairs Committee to take up. Clearly, he was beyond troubled by the fact that this markup was the very first time either committee has discussed the provision.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) was the only member to speak in support of Sec. 1034 of the NDAA. Interestingly enough he didn't reply to the declaration of war charge by Rep. Garamendi.
In defense of Sec. 1034, and in opposition of the amendment, Rep. Thornberry said the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2001 was hastily written and it is no longer responsive to the threat Americans face from terrorists today. He said the provision in the NDAA updates the 2001 AUMF and it is an especially good time to address it in light of the capturing and killing of Osama bin Laden.
Debate on the Rep. Garamendi's amendment ended when he withdrew it, and declared that he plans to introduce it again on the House floor where he expects a fully engaged debate.
So, while a new authorization for worldwide war has had its first public debate, it unfortunately only lasted a hair over 10 minutes and occurred after midnight.
Though it is a very troubling expansion of war authority, it has been lingering for more than three years as a “sleeper provision,” and it is finally getting the attention of some members of Congress. We hope that further debate in Congress in the weeks ahead will allow for a more in-depth examination of unchecked authority to wage worldwide war, and what the outcomes of such a provision will yield.
Stay engaged — you can help now by telling your representative to oppose any new and expanded war authority. The debate over the NDAA and its multitude of amendments will begin the week of May 23, and we suspect it will be a lively one.
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READ MORE: More Eyes Needed on Congress as they Prepare to Vote on Worldwide War Authorization (May 17, 2011)