Sen. Lisa Murkowski visited Ketchikan on Friday, where she met with local officials, tribal leaders and business groups to discuss federal issues affecting the region. Afterwards, she sat down with KRBD to talk about her worries about growing unchecked presidential power in Washington.
Murkowski made national headlines after she broke with Republican colleagues on a mid-February vote to limit the president’s power to strike Iran. But without a veto-proof two-thirds majority, the resolution will likely be blocked by the president.
KRBD’s Eric Stone began by asking Murkowski about that vote.
Lisa Murkowski: I think what we need to recognize is the lanes of authority, the constitutional lanes of authority. And the constitution makes it pretty clear. It is the Congress that has that authority and power. And so when we as a Congress either fail to exercise our authorities, fail to set that parameters, what happens is almost by default, the executive will engage in actions that maybe some would consider bordering on acts of war and so how we weigh in with our constitutional authorities is significant.
Our reality is we have not we have not provided for a resolution in the Congress since 2001. We’re operating under that same resolution.
Eric Stone: So yeah, I wanted to talk a little bit about that 2001 AUMF — that’s the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a law that allows the president to strike terrorist organizations around the world. It passed overwhelmingly with just one vote opposed in the days after 9/11, and successive presidents have used that 19-year-old law to justify operations from the Philippines to Africa.
So the question I have for you then is, is it time to replace that 2001 AUMF with something more specific? And would that be geographic restrictions, limits on resources that can be deployed without specific authorization or, you know, other types of restrictions?
LM: And those are fair questions to ask. But it begs the question, are we doing that? Is Congress doing that? What we’re doing, what you have seen, is a response to an incident: taking out [Iranian general Qassem] Soleimani. All of a sudden, all eyes of the Congress are turned towards, ‘What’s going on over there? Who made that decision? Did they consult with Congress? Is the authorization appropriate?’ And we engage in that limited debate on the floor.
But we don’t take it back to — is the original AUMF still operational? When you think about when you think about the way that we were engaged in that war effort, say back in ‘01 or ‘02, to where we are in the year 2020. We weren’t talking about drones in 2001. We weren’t talking about cyber warfare in 2001. So, because the way that we are approaching war has changed, don’t you think it merits a debate and a discussion in Congress?
ES: So intelligence officials told a House committee on February 13 that Russia is looking to tip the scales in the president’s favor in the November election. I just saw another report on the way in here from the Washington Post, saying that intelligence officials had briefed the (Bernie) Sanders campaign that Russia was acting on their behalf as well. Do you see foreign election interference as a significant threat to American democracy?
LM: I believe foreign interference, any interference in in our elections is a threat. And we need to take it seriously. We need to address it head on straight on. We cannot try to minimize it or say it’s not happening to us. I think we saw full well some of that in the elections in 2016. And it was real then.
You know, whether it is attempting to influence an election to help a Republican or help a Democrat. I don’t care who they’re talking about. When you have foreign interference in our election, you do threaten our democracy.
ES: So, what can the Congress do, though, to require that a president counter threats — election interference threats — even though they could personally benefit from that election interference?
LM: Well, again, this is where this is where you have, you have agencies that are tasked with ensuring a level of credibility to our election systems. And that’s their job. It doesn’t mean difference if it’s a Republican president or if it’s a Democrat president. It is about the integrity of our systems. And working to maintain that integrity is something that we all need to exercise oversight towards. So again, it is for those who would suggest that it might benefit the president to not investigate or to investigate, it shouldn’t make any difference.
It’s all about the integrity of a system. I need to be able to believe, you need to be able to believe, Americans need to be able to believe in, the honesty and the integrity of our election system.