Messaging: Congress Must Repeal the 2001 AUMF


We are sending servicemembers to fight and die in wars that most current Members of Congress have never voted on.

  • Voting on war and peace is one of Congress’ most important constitutional duties.
  • It is immoral for Congress to continue bucking its responsibility to debate and vote on war while at the same time asking our servicemembers to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
  • Congress owes it to our servicemembers – some of whom may not have been alive on 9/11,  our fellow Americans, and the innocent victims of wars abroad to debate whether the strategy of bombing our way to peace will really make the United States safer, more stable, or more secure.
  • It is past time for Congress to act. In 2017, the House Appropriations Committee passed Rep. Barbara Lee’s 8-month repeal of the 2001 AUMF, only to have then-Speaker Ryan strip the provision from the final bill.

Going to war is supposed to be hard.

  • The Constitution’s Framers were deeply worried about the power to wage war being concentrated solely in the Executive, believing that no one person should be responsible for such a momentous decision.  
  • The Framers wanted the branch closest and most accountable to the people to decide on whether the nation should go to war, precisely because they knew it would be hard for Congress to agree – not in spite of it.
  • If a majority of Congress cannot agree that our nation should be taking military action then we have no business engaging in that conflict.

The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military force has become an Executive Branch tool for waging global, endless war.

  • The 2001 AUMF contains no time limits, no geographic constraints, and no exit strategy. It has effectively become a blank check for any president, at any time, to wage endless global war without congressional consent or oversight.
  • Multiple presidents have used the authority granted by Congress in 2001 to now wage war against adversaries that had nothing to do with 9/11.
  • Thanks to the expansion of the 2001 AUMF and 2002 AUMFs, the United States is currently “fighting terrorism” in 80 countries around the world, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project. This was not Congress’ intent.
  • The post-9/11 wars have cost the United States an estimated $5.9 trillion through FY19, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project.
  • Because of its overuse, the Trump administration is not ruling out using the 2001 AUMF to justify war with Iran. This would be a gross misuse of this authorization.  

No AUMF is needed to defend the United States against imminent attacks.

  • The Constitution and corresponding statutes give the President, as Commander in Chief, all necessary legal authority to defend our nation against a truly imminent threat.
  • The reality is that AUMFs are used to engage in preventive war, a counterterrorism strategy that has abjectly failed over the past 17 years to root out those groups and individuals who commit terrorist acts.
  • Our nation has the most powerful military in the world, adequate to defend against threats. Repealing the 2001 AUMF will allow us to focus on defending against imminent threats and no longer engaging in military misadventures that ultimately create more threats than they eliminate.

Debate on the existing AUMFs must center around whether the use of military force is the right tool to address security challenges.

  • An AUMF is only part of, rather than the driver of, a comprehensive U.S. strategy to address this security challenge.
  • Congress must identify alternative tools rooted in peacebuilding, conflict prevention, diplomatic engagement, as well as economic and governance reform to keep us safe.
  • Polling shows that the majority of Americans want Congress to vote on whether the U.S. goes to war and only with clear strategic objectives and an exit strategy.

If Congress decides a new AUMF is necessary, any new authorization must:

  • Clearly specify missions, objectives, the enemy, and the geographic scope,
  • Increase transparency and reporting,
  • Require compliance with international law,
  • Require the executive branch to seek authorization from Congress to add any additional group or geographic location to the authorization,
  • Contain sunset clauses that require a public debate about continuing the use of force and compel another vote to authorize force following the sunset.