Rand Paul likely to get a war vote

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) -- After threatening to scuttle all amendments on a massive defense policy bill, Sen. Rand Paul is likely to secure a vote on ending the war authorizations the US military uses to fight terrorism across the globe.

Paul's office announced he would get a vote Wednesday on the Kentucky Republican's amendment that would repeal the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations after six months, giving Congress time to pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force for the wars against Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Mitch McConnell did not respond to confirm Paul's statement, but three Senate aides said a vote was likely on Paul's amendment.

The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs authorized the war against Al Qaeda and the Iraq War, and they provide the legal basis that the Obama administration and now the Trump administration has used for the fight against global terrorism.

Senate leaders appear to have agreed to give Paul a vote on his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act after he threatened to object to all other amendments, which would have effectively prevented any amendments from getting a vote on the massive defense policy bill. The vote will be on whether to kill Paul's amendment.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Paul argued that the current war against ISIS and Al Qaeda across the Middle East was illegal, and Congress should reassert its authority to declare war from the Executive Branch.

"For the first time in 16 years, I'm advocating we should vote on whether or not we should be at war," Paul said. "Will senators idly sit by and let the wars continue, unabated and unauthorized?"

Paul's amendment likely faces an uphill climb to be adopted onto the defense bill, as many lawmakers have expressed concern about repealing the authorization the US military uses to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda without first replacing it.

"It would send a very inappropriate signal to our troops, to our allies in the fight across the globe, and also it would send an unfortunate signal to our adversaries," said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee. "It would be read in many places as a signal the Senate has essentially declared in six months we are going to de-authorize military actions."

The Trump administration has asserted that it has the authority it needs to conduct the war on terror, and many lawmakers say that is sufficient.

But Paul could find support in both parties from the corner of the Capitol that has been pressing for a new war authorization since the US began military operations against ISIS in 2014.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who has joined forces with Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona to draft a new war authorization, says he's likely to back Paul's amendment.

"I'm inclined to support it, because I think it will encourage the foreign relations committee to really grapple the Flake-Kaine AUMF," Kaine told CNN.

Kaine and Flake are pressing the foreign relations committee to mark up their authorization, and the committee had Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson brief them on the issue last month.

But Flake said Tuesday he wants to move through the committee and not through Paul's amendment that would repeal the current measures.

"I'm sympathetic to his concerns, but I don't think this is the way to go about it," Flake said. "I'd rather do it in a deliberative fashion. I think we're getting there."

In the House, the appropriations committee approved an amendment from California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee to repeal the 2001 AUMF, but House Republican leaders used a procedural tactic to strip the amendment before the defense appropriations bill passed on the floor.

If Paul drops his objections to other amendments -- and no other senators raise their own -- there are a number of other contentious issues that might get votes on the defense policy bill, although there are hundreds of amendments that have been offered.

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins introduced an amendment on Monday that would push back on President Donald Trump's proposed transgender ban by blocking the Trump administration from discharging service members solely on the basis of their gender identity.

Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California have proposed an amendment to protect military personnel who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) authorization.

And Sen. Tom Cotton has proposed an amendment that would end the sequestration budget caps for both defense and non-defense spending, which as currently written would prevent the Pentagon's proposed $54 billion budget increase from taking shape."


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