Bipartisan Majorities Support Legislation Giving Congress Greater Power Over Use of Military Force, Arms Sales

A new in-depth survey finds that bipartisan majorities favor several legislative proposals giving Congress greater authority over the use of military force and arms sales, as well as repealing the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), passed after the 9/11 attacks, which has been the primary basis for the uses of military force since then. 

Bipartisan majorities support a proposal contained in several bills that would increase Congress’s role in the use of  military force. Currently, according to the War Powers Act, if the president initiates the use of military force, after 60 days, Congress can vote to stop it. However, the president can veto the stoppage, which would require Congress to muster a supermajority to override the veto–something Congress has never done.  

Bipartisan majorities support legislative proposals that automatically cut-off funding for a military operation initiated by the president after 60 days unless Congress acts to approve it. Congress could effectively stop an operation with a simple majority.

After being briefed on the proposals and evaluating arguments pro and con, 58% favor an automatic funding cut-off after 60 days unless Congress acts. This garners support from 53% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats, and 58% of independents.

Similarly, bipartisan majorities (61%, Republicans 56%, Democrats 68%, independents 61%) favor requiring that Congress actively approve arms sales over $14 million, giving Congress the power to stop arms sales with a simple majority not subject to a presidential veto. 

Consistent with the general support for a greater Congressional role, bipartisan majorities favor repealing the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, which gave the president the authority to use military force against anyone involved in the attacks or any organization that helped those involved. Over the last two decades, the AUMF has been used as the legal basis for military force against organizations that were not involved with 9/11, but have similar beliefs and methods. All in all, nearly six-in-ten voters (59%) favor repealing the 2001 AUMF, including 65% of Democrats, 52% of Republicans, and 63% of independents.

“We have been consistently finding bipartisan majority support for giving Congress greater say over the use of military force and arms sales,” commented Steven Kull, Director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC). 

In this innovative survey by the Program for Public Consultation at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, respondents were given briefings on the proposals, and evaluated arguments for and against to ensure they understood the issues. The content was reviewed in advance by experts for accuracy and balance and to ensure the best arguments were being presented on both sides. 

The survey was fielded January 27 – February 28, 2022 online with a national representative sample of 2,702 registered voters provided by Nielsen Scarborough from its larger sample, which is recruited by telephone and mail from a random sample of households. There is a margin of error of +/- 1.9%. 

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