The Senate is advancing a vote to repeal two decades-old Iraq War authorizations as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle push to reclaim congressional war powers 20 years after the last invasion by U.S. troops.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday advanced bipartisan legislation to scrap the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force that paved the way for the Gulf War under President George H.W. Bush and the 2003 invasion of Iraq under his son. A floor vote is expected in the coming days.
“Americans are tired of endless wars in the Middle East, and we owe it to them and to our veterans and their families to repeal the Iraq War AUMF,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said. “Every year we keep them on the books, it’s another chance for future administrations to abuse or misuse them. War powers belong in the hands of Congress, and that means we have a responsibility to prevent future presidents from exploiting these AUMFs to bumble us into a new Middle East conflict.”
The push to repeal the outdated authorizations has become a perennial fight on Capitol Hill. Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF authorizing the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, has, for years, led the effort in the House to reclaim congressional authority to wage war.
The Democrat-led House repealed the 2002 AUMF in a 268-161 vote in June 2021, but that push failed to clear the Senate.
The 2001 Afghanistan AUMF will remain on the books under the current legislation, but the effort to repeal the Iraq War authorizations has more recently garnered support from both parties.
The repeal of military force authorization would be the first rollback of presidential war powers since 9/11, though critics say threats from Iran and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria persist in the region.
President Biden has registered his support for appealing the authorizations, arguing they are outdated.
The administration has also strayed from previous administrations’ tendency to lean on the 2002 AUMF for engagements in the region, citing Article Two of the Constitution for 2022 airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Then-President Obama cited the authorization in 2014 as legal authority to send troops back into the theater to fight ISIS. In 2020, President Donald Trump cited the 2002 authorization, in part, as the legal basis for carrying out the drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qasem Soleimani while he was in Iraq.
Cully Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said past presidents have leaned on the authorization as a “political gesture to those who don’t like presidents operating solely on their constitutional prerogative under Article Two.”
“I think today, the optics are different,” he said. “I actually think it sends a loud and clear message that by keeping the 2011 AUMF in place, we’re serious about staying on a war footing against terrorists. It also tells the Chinese, for example, that we’re in the business of reclaiming or authorizing the use of military force. I think that doing nothing shows that Congress is not engaging in their prerogative and duty.”
The current bill, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, and Todd Young, Indiana Republican, cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 13-8 vote this month and has 31 co-sponsors.
Ms. Lee is joined by Reps. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, and Abigail Spanberger, Virginia Democrat, in introducing similar legislation in the House.
“The framers gave Congress the grave duty to deliberate the questions of war and peace, but for far too long this body has abdicated this duty. We must do our job,” Mr. Roy said. “This would be a first step toward a clearer, more focused military strategy, a more responsible government, and a stronger, more united country.”
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