UPDATED: Dangerous Amendment Amounting to Declaration of War Put Forward

Duncan Hunter/Facebook

A photo from Rep. Duncan D. Hunter's Facebook page shows him during a tour of duty with the U.S. Marines.

UPDATE (May 21,2014): Rep. Hunter revised his amendment in the Rules Committee, removing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force and replacing it with language demanding two reports from the president. The first, due 30 days after passage, would be required to contain "the identity and location of those persons and organizations that planned, authorized, or committed the attacks against the United States facilities in Benghazi, Libya that occurred on September 11 and 12, 2012; and a detailed and specific description of all actions that have been taken to kill or capture any of the persons described in clause."

Additionally, the report would clarify whether the president would be required to go to Congress for an AUMF if he wanted to launch a military strike to capture or kill those terrorists. 
 
A second report due 90 days after the laws enactment would require the President to develop a strategy to "bring to justice" those responsible for the attack in Benghazi Libya. 
 
(May 22, 2014) This amendment, as described above, passed on a voice vote. 

 

Representative Duncan Hunter of California submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize the “use of force against those responsible for the attack against United States personnel in Benghazi, Libya.” The amendment will likely come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week.

Hunter's legislation represents an official Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] under the War Powers Act permitting the president of the United States “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those organizations or persons the President determines planned, authorized, or committed the attacks against the United States facilities in Benghazi, Libya that occurred on September 11 and 12, 2012, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such organizations or persons.”

This dangerous AUMF is the functional equivalent of a declaration of war in response to the Benghazi attack. It cites no specific enemy and its open-ended nature means that any future president, not only Barack Obama, could use it as a pretext for military action. It is also unnecessary; under the War Powers Act the president, if necessary, can launch an offensive for up to 60 days without congressional authorization. 

No serious legislator would so flippantly bring such an expansive bill to the floor without so much as a congressional hearing. But House Speaker John Boehner, who through the Rules Committee has final say over what amendments are voted on by the chamber, has shown an inclination to take a different path. After resisting its creation for months, he formed the Benghazi Select Committee, knowing it is a waste of time and resources.  If this amendment is voted on in the House of Representatives it will be yet another gift from Boehner to the Tea Party wing of his caucus in the hope they will allow him to keep his gavel after the 2014 elections.

A direct line can be drawn from Benghazi bonanza Fox News has offered its audience over the past 21 months, feeding it lies about the attack in Libya, riling viewers to believe no foreign policy crisis is more important. Now comes this latest stunt. It is no surprise that Duncan Hunter senses an opportunity to legislatively demagogue this issue in the hope of becoming the next conservative Benghazi media darling. 

If the Republican leadership allows a vote on such a broad, sweeping measure without even a hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee, that is more evidence of how irresponsible and uninterested in governing the party has become. While the Benghazi Select Committee will waste millions of dollars, this latest action has the potential to waste thousands of lives.

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