Capital Thinking: Defense


Executive and Legislative Branch Activity



Last Wednesday, September 4, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after a hearing and two days of debate held during a congressional recess, passed by a vote of 10-7 its Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Syria. Senators and Congressmen remain deeply divided on U.S. military action in Syria.  Adding to the congressional divide on Syria are polls that reflect the majority of Americans oppose military action in Syria.

The Senate briefly convened last Friday for the purpose of getting the Senate AUMF resolution on the Senate calendar. This will allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to file cloture on the motion to proceed as early as today, Monday, September, 9. The Senate goal is to complete action on the AUMF resolution this week. If opponents filibuster the resolution, the floor vote could slip to next week.

If the House decides to take up the Senate’s AUMF resolution, it could avoid regular order and bypass the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and bring the resolution to the Rules Committee to send to the House floor. This strategy could avoid what is expected to be a difficult vote in the HFAC. Some HFAC members have signaled intent to amend the AUMF resolution in ways that would be unacceptable to the broader House, or may hold up the AUMF altogether. A final House strategy will not be decided on until this week.

President Barack Obama is in Washington, D.C. today to help convince U.S. lawmakers to approve the AUMF. The President is also expected to address the nation on Tuesday, September 10.


Some Republican Members of Congress – Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) and House Armed Services Committee Chair Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) – have indicated they may base their support for any AUMF resolution on President Obama agreeing to suspend the sequester for the Pentagon. SASC Ranking Member Inhofe stated Wednesday that

“The state of our military today cannot afford another war. The president has decimated our military by cutting its budget by $487 billion and putting another $500 billion more on the chopping block with his sequestration. Gen. [Martin E.] Dempsey [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] agreed when he testified before Congress earlier this year that our military is being put on a path where the ‘force is so degraded and so unready’ that it could be ‘immoral to use the force.’”

Last Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, September 10: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the “Proposed Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.”
  • Thursday, September 12: The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces will hold a hearing on “Undersea Warfare Capabilities and Challenges.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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