August 04, 2021

Chairman Menendez Opening Remarks at Committee Business Meeting to Consider Repeal of 1991, 2002 AUMFs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at this morning’s full Committee business meeting to consider S.J.Res.10, a joint resolution to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs).

“As I have made clear, I believe it would be a grave mistake if we do not act now to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. As we heard very clearly from the Administration yesterday, in testimony from the Deputy Secretary of State and two senior lawyers on this matter, repeal of these AUMFs will have no impact whatsoever on our operations or detention activities.  There is no scenario under which the United States could or would need to use force for which the Administration would rely on the 1991 or 2002 AUMFs. They either have the authority... or they would come back to Congress to ask for additional authority. That is the way it should be, and that will help ensure that the 2002 AUMF is not abused by any future administration,” said Chairman Menendez. “There is no longer any legitimate purpose for the 1991 or 2002 AUMFs, and the time has come for this Committee to stop dealing in hypotheticals and to act responsibly.  I am grateful to the Administration for being responsive to our requests for a briefing and a public hearing, and I look forward to a strong vote in support of S.J.Res.10 today.”   

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.

“This business meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.

Today we are marking up S.J.Res.10, a bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force. Let me commend Senators Kaine and Young for their persistent leadership on this issue. I know that others as well have been interested – Senator Murphy, Senator Cardin. I would also like to thank them for their patience in seeing this bill marked up, particularly since Senator Risch and I had agreed to a markup of this bill in June, soon after our House colleagues voted in favor of repealing the 2002 AUMF.     

I agreed to accommodate the request from Senators Romney and other of our colleagues on the Republican side to hold a classified briefing on the issue as well as a public hearing on repealing the 2002 AUMF because I believe that votes related to use of force issues are weighty ones – ones that no Member of Congress should take lightly. I am pleased that all members of this Committee have had an opportunity to fully understand the reasons for – and implications of – this profoundly important bill. 

As I have made clear, I believe it would be a grave mistake if we do not act now to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. As we heard very clearly from the Administration yesterday, in testimony from the Deputy Secretary of State and two senior lawyers on this matter, repeal of these AUMFs will have no impact whatsoever on our operations or detention activities.

There is no scenario under which the United States could or would need to use force for which the Administration would rely on the 1991 or 2002 AUMFs. They either have the authority, in their view, under Article II of the Constitution or the 2001 AUMF, or they would come back to Congress to ask for additional authority. That is the way it should be, and that will help ensure that the 2002 AUMF is not abused by any future administration. 

To those who believe that repealing the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs would somehow demonstrate a lack of resolve in Iraq, or in the Middle East more generally, I would again point out to you the comments made by our Administration witnesses yesterday.

Deputy Secretary Sherman stated clearly, ‘the 2002 AUMF against Iraq has outlived its usefulness and should be repealed.’ She also noted that as a result of the United States’ strategic partnership with Iraq, ‘the United States is poised to have a different relationship with Iraq and in the Middle East,’ and ‘rather than speak to weakness, this speaks to strength.’

I also point out to those colleagues who are concerned about this our current reality, which is that any U.S. troops currently in Iraq are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. 

Let us be very clear – repealed or not, the 2002 AUMF does not authorize any military activity against Iran. That is not to say that the United States will not – or should not – show resolve against Iran as it continues to threaten our people and our national security interests. But the 2002 AUMF provides no authority to do that.

There is no longer any legitimate purpose for the 1991 or 2002 AUMFs, and the time has come for this Committee to stop dealing in hypotheticals and to act responsibly.

I am grateful to the Administration for being responsive to our requests for a briefing and a public hearing, and I look forward to a strong vote in support of S.J.Res.10 today.   

Turning briefly to nominations, I am pleased that we will be voting on a number of nominees today. Unfortunately, we again have a blanket holdover request for seven newly-noticed nominees. I must say this is stretching the bounds of comity. Only to understand that there will be a 2 p.m. markup, so the only thing that is being done is inconveniencing the members of the Committee to come back at 2 p.m. to have a vote, a meeting that both the Ranking Member and I have set.

If this continues, I will have a conversation with the Ranking Member about how we are going to pursue this because this is beyond the pale. It is not what was meant. The purposes of holdover of a nominee was to get more information, to have questions answered, and to get the Administration to deal with those questions through the State Department.

But blanket holdovers of all nominees undermine the national security interests of the United States. We have a holdover on the person who is supposed to be the head of our diplomatic security abroad and supposed to help us protect our people abroad. God forbid something happens while this holdover continues. I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for doing that.

So we will have a meeting at 2. We have one more nominee we will consider for this morning which will also be held over – Chris Lu to be the Ambassador to the UN for Management and Reform – and will apply the hold over to Lu and take up his nomination with the others at 2 p.m. this afternoon.

I’m not going to speak to each of these nominees right now but I do want to say that I believe that they are all well-qualified and deserving of their nominations. I look forward to their swift confirmations.

I would also ask for unanimous consent to enter nine letters of support that my office has received in support of the nomination of Secretary Kenneth Salazar into the hearing record, and due to COVID precautions, we will email the letters to the Committee's clerk.

Without objection, those letters shall be included.

With that, let me recognize the distinguished Ranking Member for his remarks. Senator Risch?”

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