[NPR “The National Conversation”] AUMF: Reasserting the Role of Congress

by Jessica Poarch Hernandez 

Debate over the future of the AUMF is surfacing in both public and private arenas. Recently, NPR and The Wilson Center hosted a panel discussion entitled “AUMF: Reasserting the Role of Congress” which featured Senator Bob Corker, Sarah Chayes, and Neal Katyal. The discussion, as the name implies, focused not on the constitutionality of the AUMF but on the balance of power associated with it. In fact, in her opening remarks, Jane Harman, the CEO of The Wilson Center, reminded the crowd that war powers are divided. Questions such as, “Is the AUMF necessary for the President to act,” “Is the AUMF too broad,” and “If the AUMF needs to be revised what needs to be replaced” were taken up.

There was not much of a debate, however. Ms. Chayes described it best when she told the audience that they had come for a heated panel and instead got a chorus. All of the panelist seemed to agree that the war powers, post-AUMF, are not being appropriately balanced between the Executive and Legislative branches and together called for Congress to take more “ownership” of the conflicts we are in. Where there was some disagreement was in the question of whether or not to revise or just completely repeal the AUMF. One suggestion that I found interesting was Senator Corker’s suggestion that the next AUMF be structured on a tier system that would give the President authority to act alone in certain instances but require him to get Congressional approval in others. This seems to directly track Jackson’s conception of Presidential Power in Youngstown which assessed the President’s power based on the actions of Congress. This was not the only solution offered by the panel. In any event, regardless of the chosen solution, the panel’s conclusion remains paramount – Congress must act.

Overall I found this discussion to be a refreshing and practical discourse on a complicated issue.

Listen to the discussion here. 

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