WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, recently joined the Global Dispatches to discuss his sweeping, bipartisan legislation to overhaul Congress’s role in national security, the recent air strikes in Somalia, and the 2001 AUMF repeal debate.

On what the National Security Powers Act is trying to solve, Murphy said: The Washington D.C. foreign [policy] establishment thinks it's smarter than the American public when it comes to when and how and if we send our men and women overseas to fight wars, and whether we get involved in nasty foreign entanglements in far off places around the globe. And I tend to think that the American people should be trusted. And I think our Founding Fathers thought the same. That's why they gave the power to Congress to declare war. That's why they gave a set of very specific national security powers to Congress, rather than to the executive branch.”

Murphy continued: “[I]t's time to rein in the executive [branch’s] ability to fight wars overseas. I also think it's time to limit [the executive branch’s] ability to sell weapons overseas without more public input. And I also think that there's too much permissive power in the executive branch to declare national emergencies, which gives the executive branch all sorts of power without the people weighing in.”

Murphy went on to discuss how his legislation safeguards congressional prerogatives in the use of military force, emergency powers and arms exports. In each of these cases, the president would be required to consult congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising the powers in question. Any congressional authorization will have to meet specific requirements, including an automatic sunset. Under the National Security Powers Act, any activities lacking such authorization will face an automatic funding cutoff after a specified number of days.

On the legislative provisions of the National Security Powers Act, Murphy said: "[T]his is going to require a lot more work for Congress. That's a lot of votes to have to take on arms sales and national emergencies. But I think that's what our Founding Fathers wanted us to do. I think they wanted us to be an active, regular presence in matters of national security. And I think that's what our constituents expect. Our workload will get bigger, but I think our democracy will be stronger for it.”

On the 2001 AUMF repeal, Murphy said: You've got this concurrent effort that I'm involved in, but being led by Senator Kaine and Senator Young, to rewrite the 2001 AUMF that has another group of Republicans and Democrats who will likely support it. I do think that there's more interest now than ever, as we've seen some mistakes being made, most recently in Yemen, by the executive branch. Congress, I think is more interested in now than ever in correcting it.”

On how the National Security Powers Act would change the United States’ use of military force in places like Somalia: “[I]t's shocking to most Americans that we're at war in Somalia…The administration has now made it clear that they believe their authorization provides them with the blanket ability to launch kinetic strikes in Somalia. At first, they seem to suggest that this was a broader Article II power in defense of partner forces. Now, they seem to be suggesting it's attached to the 2001 AUMF, because al-Shabaab is affiliated with terrorist groups that are already subjects of authorizations. The justifications have been very murky. And I don't know that the American public would be very excited to know that we're engaged in this kind of activity overseas without their input.”

Murphy continued: "What would happen differently under this legislation? Well, it would expedite the time that the president needs to come to Congress. And arguably, it would shut off funding for this activity, should it continue without authorization. Now, admittedly, the mechanics of how that sort of shut-off would happen, would be interesting to work out because those funds are already sitting in the Department of Defense. And so the law would essentially say to the Department of Defense, if you don't get an authorization for war in Somalia, you can no longer use any funds for those activities. I imagine that the executive branch might contest the constitutionality of that provision. This might all end up in the courts. But the difference is, right now, the only way Congress can stop what's going on in Somalia is to pass a piece of legislation that says we are no longer going to fund any military operations inside that country. This legislation would make that cessation of funding automatic.”

In July, Murphy, along with U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), introduced the National Security Powers Act which would safeguard congressional prerogatives in the use of military force, emergency powers and arms exports. Murphy detailed the specifics of the legislation in a War on the Rocks op-ed. You can read more about the bill here.

Click here to listen to the Global Dispatches episode in full.