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Attack on Trump-backed Mo Brooks distorts his votes on ISIS
If Your Time is short
The ad cites two Brooks votes, neither of which was an up-or-down vote on funding U.S. military operations against ISIS.
Brooks’ votes were for measures that would have required congressional authorization of the use of military force against ISIS before funding for such military action could be approved.
The Republican endorsed by former President Donald Trump for an open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama tried to undercut the U.S. fight against the ISIS terrorist organization, according to one TV ad attacking him.
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks faces two other major GOP challengers in the May 24 primary and is being attacked in TV, radio and Facebook ads from Alabama’s Future, a super PAC formed to oppose his candidacy.
In the ad, a narrator said Brooks voted "to cut off funding to destroy ISIS terrorists — in the middle of the fight."
Small text appearing in the ad alludes to Brooks’ votes for two failed proposals that had more to do with congressional authorization of military action against ISIS than cutting off funding for such action. They pertained to two amendments to Defense Department appropriations bills.
National security expert John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org said the amendments "had nothing to do with blowing up ISIS and had everything to do with a congressional assertion of having a role in the war powers."
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, seized control of territory in Syria and Iraq starting in 2014, the year the campaign to defeat the Islamic militant group took shape.
One of Brooks’ votes regarding ISIS occurred in 2015 and the other in 2016, as major U.S. military operations were carried out. It wasn’t until mid-2017 that ISIS, after losing much of the territory it had seized, collapsed.
So, it’s fair to say that the two Brooks votes occurred during, as the ad claimed, "the middle of the fight," according to Pike and national security expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who oversees Valens Global, a private national security consulting firm.
But both said the ad’s claim against Brooks is oversimplified.
Alabama’s Future has spent $2.89 million in the 2021-22 election cycle, according to the nonprofit Open Secrets. It’s not clear who organized the group, which does not disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission.
Alabama’s Future did not respond to our requests for information about the claim in the ad we’re checking. But the ad — along with another version of the TV ad we’re checking, two radio ads and a Facebook ad — identifies the two Brooks votes.
In both cases, Brooks voted in favor of an amendment to annual appropriations bills for the Defense Department. Neither amendment passed.
On June 11, 2015, the House voted on an amendment to the 2016 appropriations bill. The amendment would have prohibited the use of funds for Operation Inherent Resolve, as the campaign to defeat ISIS was known, without Congress first enacting a law authorizing the use of military force against ISIS. The amendment failed on a vote of 231-196. Brooks was one of 33 Republicans to vote yes, along with 163 Democrats, including Pelosi, the House speaker. The other six Alabama House members, including the lone Democrat, Terri Sewell, voted no.
The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said at the time that he wanted no money spent "for the war against ISIS after a certain date in March of next year unless Congress authorizes a war against ISIS."
The second vote came on June 16, 2016, when the House voted on an amendment to the 2017 appropriations bill. The amendment would have prohibited funds being obligated for combat operations in Iraq or Syria unless an authorization for the use of military force, known as an AUMF, had been enacted.
That amendment was proposed by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. He said at the time: "Quite simply, if you want the money to fight a war, then pass an AUMF." The amendment failed on a vote of 285-130. Brooks was one of 17 Republicans to vote for the amendment, along with 118 Democrats, including Pelosi. Again, the other Alabama House members voted no.
Gartenstein-Ross said that had either amendment become law, the funding for the fight against ISIS would have come to an end — but in that case, Congress could simply have taken the separate step of authorizing such military action. "It’s highly likely" that Congress would have approved an authorization for the use of military force, he said.
A key aim of the amendments was to give Congress authority over the military actions that had been originally authorized after the 9/11 terrorist attacks some 15 years earlier, Gartenstein-Ross said. That’s significant because that military force authorization specifically targeted organizations and persons who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001," and by the time Brooks’ amendment votes were taken, ISIS had split from al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Gartenstein-Ross said.
Michael O'Hanlon, director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, said some House members would only have supported funding for the war against ISIS if there were first congressional authorization. But some members voting for the amendments were simply trying to restore stronger congressional oversight on the use of force by the United States, he said.
Brooks’ campaign noted that Brooks voted for the two appropriations bills themselves.
In February 2015, Brooks raised questions about how spending money on fighting ISIS would affect other defense priorities and whether other nations would help the U.S. combat ISIS. And in June 2015, Brooks said an authorization of force proposed by President Barack Obama was "weak" because it was vague and had a three-year time limit.
"If we’re going to get in there, the president needs to have whatever authorization he needs to win and I’ll vote for that kind of authorization for use of military force," Brooks said. "But I’m not going to vote for one that replicates the problems and loss of lives associated with Vietnam, where we don’t get in there to win, where we hamstring ourselves."
Brooks has faced criticism for the votes before. A 2017 ad made a similar attack on Brooks, claiming he "voted to cut off funding to fight ISIS." A Birmingham TV station’s fact-check called the claim "true but misleading."
The Alabama race is to succeed Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and is not seeking re-election.
The outcome could help determine which party controls the Senate, now split 50-50. Since campaign watchers rate the race as safe or solid Republican, the outcome of the May 24 primary is key.
The other major GOP candidates are former Shelby aide Katie Britt and Army veteran Mike Durant. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, a primary runoff election for the top two finishers would be held June 21.
Alabama’s Future claimed in an ad that Brooks "voted to cut off funding to destroy ISIS terrorists in the middle of the fight."
The ad alludes to two votes, one in 2015 and one in 2016 during U.S. combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Neither was an up-or-down vote on funding military operations against the terrorist group. What Brooks voted for were measures that would have required congressional authorization of military action against ISIS before any funding of such operations could be approved.
The ad contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
PolitiFact staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
YouTube, Alabama’s Future post of its "Cut Off" ad, March 11, 2022
YouTube, Alabama’s Future post of its "Disaster" ad, March 7, 2022
YouTube, Alabama’s Future post of its "Two Evils" ad, March 11, 2022
YouTube, Alabama’s Future post of its "Debacle" ad, March 7, 2022
Meta, Alabama’s Future "Mo Brooks puts politics" Facebook ad, March 7, 2022 to March 21, 2022
Alabama Today, "Video shows Mo Brooks defending vote that withholds funding in war on ISIS," Aug. 3, 2017
Email, Mo Brooks campaign spokesperson Will Hampson, March 21, 2022
WVTM-TV, "Fact Check: Mo Brooks attack ads in Alabama's Senate race," Aug. 10, 2017
Clerk of the House of Representatives, "Vote Question: On Agreeing to the Amendment," June 16, 2016
Rep. Jim McGovern, news release, May 18, 2016
Rep. Mo Brooks, news release, Feb. 26, 2015
C-SPAN, Mo Brooks interview, June 16, 2015
Congress.gov, House Report on H.Res.783, June 14, 2016
Clerk of the House of Representatives, "Vote Question: On Agreeing to the Amendment," June 11, 2015
Congress.gov, "H.Amdt.479 to H.R.2685," accessed March 21, 2022
Congress.gov, "June 10, 2015 - Issue: Vol. 161, No. 92 — Daily Edition," accessed March 21, 2022
PolitiFact, "ISIS, drug prices and COVID-19 deaths: How a viral post misleads on Biden's first days in office," Jan. 26, 2021
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump: ISIS territory losses near 100 percent," Jan. 30, 2018
Interview, John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, March 21, 2022
Interview, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, chief executive officer of Valens Global, March 21, 2022
Email, Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, March 21, 2022
NPR, "When The U.S. Military Strikes, White House Points To A 2001 Measure," Sept. 6, 2016
Senate Leadership Fund, "Mo Brooks Admits, Defends Vote Against War On ISIS," Aug. 2, 2017
Wilson Center, "Timeline: the Rise, Spread, and Fall of the Islamic State," Oct. 28, 2019
YouTube, Senate Leadership Fund post of its "Back AL" ad, July 31, 2017
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