Rep. Mike Coffman wants to rein in president’s war authority

Author: Joey Bunch - April 27, 2018 - Updated: May 10, 2018

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman talks before a town hall meeting at a high school in Greenwood Village, in February. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman wants to reign in the power of the president to use military force — and not necessarily just the current president, but him, too.

“What I have confidence in is the people around the president,” Coffman said Thursday when Colorado Politics asked him if he had confidence in President Trump’s war-making judgment.

Coffman named Defense Secretary James Mattis, national security advisor John Bolton and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and others.

This week Coffman penned a letter urging the House to support a “robust” change to authorized use of military force, called AUMF, to fight terrorism globally. The letter was co-signed by three other House members — fellow Republican Don Bacon of Nebraska and Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Jimmy Panetta of California.

“Given the recent and ongoing military operations in which the U.S. is involved in the Middle East, we believe it is long past time for Congress to revisit this important issue,” the letter states.

Coffman and his bipartisan trio introduced an AUMF resolution in October, which you can read by clicking here. This week’s letter was a renewed call.

While Trump is mercurial, in Coffman’s view, the congressman from Aurora also cited his concerns with the way the Obama administration handled conflicts and regime change in Libya, which even Obama called the worst mistake of his presidency.

“I have concerns about any president declaring war,” Coffman said Thursday.

Coffman said Trump, however, followed correct protocols in bombing Syria this month.

Under his proposal, war powers for a president would not be inherent, because times change, Coffman said. Congress should have a responsibility and duty to reauthorize the president’s authority to dispatch the war on terror every five years.

This month Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced an AUMF reboot in the Senate last month.

Coffman said the Taliban currently is classified in a “gray area” of the president’s authority.

The fundamentalist Islamic fighting force is addressed in the current AUMF as an “offshoot” of al Qaeda, which he says is not accurate; the Taliban existed before al Qaeda.

A president also would have to report to Congress every 90 days on actions taken under the AUMF.

“You can’t just have the AUMF and not revisit it and have it go on forever,” Coffman said.

Congress gave the president more leeway in authorized use of military force after 9/11 and again in 2002 in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

“Congress needs to reassert its constitutional duty to authorize the use of military force around the globe rather than let the executive branch unilaterally make such important decisions,” Coffman wrote in the letter dated Tuesday addressed to other congressional members.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.