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Corker Opening Statement at Hearing to Review Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at a hearing to review congressional authorizations for the use of military force.

“We thank our witnesses for being here and all of our senators, who I know care deeply about this issue.

“I would like to thank you for being here to testify. Your insights and experience will be helpful as we begin to re-engage on this difficult topic.

“It has been well over a decade since 9/11, and there is an interest on the part of many members to revisit and refresh the authority we use to fight terrorism.

“In 2014, we saw the rise of ISIS, which seized territory in Iraq and Syria, and has since drawn thousands of foreign fighters and conducted, enabled, or inspired repeated attacks against the United States or our allies.

“As a result of these types of threats, and others, multiple presidents have used the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), by necessity, to conduct hundreds of drone strikes around the world and to put American troops on the ground in multiple countries.

“However, there are a multitude of terrorist groups operating today that pose a direct threat to the United States and have a lesser connection to the 9/11 attacks. Many have questioned whether the 2001 AUMF covers these groups.

“I have always believed that it is important for Congress to exercise its constitutional role to authorize the use of force, and that our country is better off when Congress clearly authorizes the wars we fight.

“As a matter of fact, we are approaching the day when an American soldier will deploy to combat under legal authority that was passed before they were born.

“In 2014, I wrote, ‘absent congressional action, the president will continue to operate under an outdated authorization, leaving the door open for future presidents to claim undue and unbounded powers that will, over time, erode the balance of power fundamental to our constitutional system.’

“Three years later, that statement remains true. It is also one that I think most members of Congress will agree with.

“But there are very real reasons why Congress has been unable to pass a new authority, and they are worth outlining.

“First, and most importantly, the 2001 AUMF continues to provide our military with the authority they need to protect American citizens from very real threats.

“In the past year, American forces have been on the ground fighting terrorism in at least five countries.

“I believe that the president has the authority under the 2001 AUMF to take action against ISIS, as the Obama administration repeatedly testified before this committee. 

“The 2001 AUMF, while stretched, provides a necessary legal authority for us to continue this fight. We should not risk its expiration without a replacement.

“Second, some members of Congress will use this debate for the singular purpose of imposing limitations on our president. It’s just a fact. Others may refuse to limit a president at war in any way. That’s a fact. And that’s a wide gap to bridge.

“Finally, many argue that while passing an AUMF may not be a legal necessity, it is a moral one. 

“They believe that the Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty of authorizing war and show the men and women fighting around the world that their elected representatives support the war.

“I too share many of those sentiments, but believe we also must guard against an outcome that could have exactly the opposite effect.

“While Congress, in fact, strongly supports the fight against ISIS and has repeatedly funded the effort, the failure to bridge differences and to pass a new AUMF could create a false impression of disunity during a time of war.

“So, with the backdrop of these challenges, I intend to conduct this debate in a way that I believe serves best our national interest.

“I hope that the administration will brief this committee to present their counterterrorism strategy and engage us constructively to ensure that any new authorization is appropriately tailored to serve the national interest and to win this fight.

“I also want to thank Senators Kaine and Flake for the tireless efforts. I want to thank Senator Young for presenting his own AUMF, and I want to thank Senator Menendez for chairing a hearing where we attempted a markup to do the same thing. I appreciate all the work that has been to develop bipartisan solutions.

“Again, I want thank you for your presence today. It’s most useful and helpful to us, and I look forward to your testimony and responses to our questions.

“And with that I would like to turn to our distinguished ranking member, and I want to thank all committee members.

“I think what we did last week on the Senate floor through intense negotiations struck exactly the right balance and continued to cause this committee and the United States Senate to reclaim our rightful role in setting foreign policies that are so important to our nation.

“I want to thank everybody for that.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.