WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) spoke on the Senate floor today about Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment. The Paul Amendment called for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the 2002 AUMF against Saddam Hussein, six months after adoption of the FY18 NDAA budget. The six month window would have required Congress to debate, mark-up, and pass a new AUMF applicable to current conflicts and terrorist threats. Senator Coons voted in support of the amendment, but it did not pass.
Full audio and video available here.
Senator Coons’ full remarks, as delivered, are below:
Mr. President, I'd like to speak briefly about the amendment just voted upon by this chamber; an amendment brought forward by Senator Paul. As my colleagues know, the Paul Amendment would have repealed the 2011 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or so-called AUMF, which authorized military operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It would also repeal the 2002 AUMF which authorized operations against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. These appeals would take effect six months after the adoption of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Mr. President, senators of both parties owe it to the men and women of our armed forces to debate in public the merits of continued conflict against ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The brave men and women who serve us and keep us safe are currently engaged in service to our nation and our security. I am very sympathetic to my colleagues’ concerns about the potential consequences about repealing the '01 and '02 authorizations. I don't want our troops fighting overseas to see our debate over this amendment as a lack of support for their vital mission. I don't want to see our enemies emboldened. I, however, chose to support the Paul Amendment, but my commitment to our troops and my commitment to defeating our enemies is as strong as ever. This body can and must immediately get to work to craft a legal authorization relevant to our current conflict. That's why I supported the Paul Amendment, which would have provided a six month window to allow Congress to demonstrate oversight, vigorous review of the status of our military operations around the world, and to pass a new authorization relevant to our current national security threat- in other words, Mr. President, would have required Congress to do its job.
Although the Paul Amendment was tabled, I look forward to continuing to discuss this important and pressing issue with my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee, where should more appropriately be debated, and to bring it forward for a final vote in this chamber. If we are to do our job under the Constitution of the United States, we owe those who fight and serve and strive to keep us safe nothing less than clarity about Congress' willingness to do its job under the Constitution and our willingness to consent to the actions that are essential to keeping us safe.