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Paul Ryan cools Congress’s fervor for new AUMF war debate

April 17, 2018 GMT

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan threw cold water on efforts to update the framework of the war on terror, saying Tuesday that he won’t allow any bill to come to the House floor that he thinks would restrict military commanders’ ability to fight.

Mr. Ryan also defended the legality of U.S. military strikes last week against chemical weapons-related sites in Syria, saying President Trump had the authority to order them under the Constitution’s Article II commander-in-chief powers.

That contrasts with many of his colleagues who have said the president’s justification falls short of convincing.

The debate over Mr. Trump’s strikes is likely to get snared in an already ongoing discussion over the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force known in Washington as AUMFs that granted President Bush the power to go after the perpetrators of the 2001 terrorist attacks and, later, to invade Iraq.

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Those authorizations have been stretched over the ensuing years to cover U.S. military action in perhaps a dozen countries ranging from the Philippines to Libya.

Earlier this week a bipartisan group of senators proposed revoking both the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and replacing them with a single AUMF that would authorize fights against the Islamic State, al Qaeda and a number of offshoot terrorist groups including the Haqqani Network, al Shabaab and the Al Nusrah Front.

The new AUMF would not specifically authorize attacks against any government, which would continue to leave strikes like last week’s Syrian operation on murky legal ground.

Asked if he would allow that kind of AUMF to reach the floor, Mr. Ryan was noncommittal.

“Can the AUMF make it into law and does it tie the hands of our military?” he said.

He said the 2001 AUMF is still good law.