Lee was the only dissenting vote on the 2001 bill that gave President George W. Bush the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, also known as the AUMF, that he needed to attack al Qaeda and its affiliates.
“I knew such a broad authorization could be used for any action, anywhere in the world in perpetuity,” Lee told the Huffington Post on Friday. “It’s really shocking to me that we haven’t had any debate and vote on a new authorization.”
When former President Barack Obama intervened in Libya in 2011, the administration pointed to the 2001 AUMF as all the authority it needed. Obama nearly struck Syria in 2013, again saying he didn’t need congressional approval but planned to ask for it. On Thursday, Trump approved an airstrike that followed plans drafted by his predecessor, and a number of senators from both parties reasoned that the president had the legal authority under that same AUMF. But that initial war authorization doesn’t have anything to do with Syria or Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The White House offered no legal rationale for why Trump felt justified in carrying out the strike during a briefing with all senators on Friday.
Lee said she wants to respond to the alleged chemical attack conducted by Assad on civilians as much as anyone else in Congress.
“The question is does one surgical strike stop it?” she said. “I would suggest we got to do something to remove Assad from power. But I don’t think military strikes will do that.”
If Trump wants to take any further action, the 2001 war authorization should be repealed and Trump needs to send a new AUMF request to Congress, Lee added.
“Because presidents ― including President Obama ― they’re hiding behind it to engage in unilateral action,” Lee said of the war powers authorization.
After that vote, Lee was ostracized, and during her next reelection in 2002, she faced protesters who carried signs that had images of her smiling in front of the burning World Trade Center towers that read: “Barbara Lee hates America.”
But the tone has changed somewhat. “I think more people are beginning to see what a huge blank check that authorization was,” she said.
“You know what, I think that was the right vote,” Lee continued. “Sometimes you come to these moments in life, and you have to follow what your Constitution and your conscience dictates.”
BEFORE YOU GO
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