Earlier this week, Sen. Rand Paul put forth an amendment that would sunset the 2001 AUMF and 2002 Iraq AUMF after 6-months. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the amendment was defeated as nearly all Senate Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) voted to strike it down.
As I looked through the roll call, however, I was surprised by the vote of one Senator in particular: Jeff Flake. In 2015 and again this year, Flake, along with Tim Kaine of Virginia, introduced legislation for a new AUMF. Yet, Flake voted to table (i.e. kill) Paul’s amendment.
Why would a Senator who clearly wants a new AUMF vote against this measure?
I wouldn’t have to wait long for an answer. Yesterday, I attended a “Conversation with Senator Jeff Flake,” hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, and was able to ask the Senator directly about the rationale behind his recent vote. Here is an excerpt from Sen. Flake’s response:
I didn’t support the Paul amendment because I’m trying to be a stickler for regular order. And when we have an opportunity to actually move something through in regular order, that’s what I’d like to do. And it is proper for this bill—we have had a hearing on it already—the next move would be a markup to actually amend it and…it will be a bipartisan bill that will move. I spoke to Chairman Corker… just yesterday, and got a commitment that this bill is going to move. So I’m confident that it will. Had I not been confident, then I would have voted for the forcing mechanism.
His justification has merit. And I hope that he is correct, and that Chairman Corker moves on AUMF legislation in the coming months. But if that fails to happen, and Sen. Paul again offers his amendment, Senator Flake is now on record that he would support it.
You can see my exchange with Senator Flake in full here.