Senate to vote on repeal of clearances for Iraq and Gulf wars
If signed into law, the bill would repeal the 1991 Gulf War authorization and the 2002 Iraq War authorization. A bipartisan group of lawmakers who support the legislation argue that it is necessary to prevent abuses by presidential administrations that might use the old Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, to launch combat operations unrelated to congressional approval of where and when to send troops.
“The whole world has changed drastically since 2002, and it is time for the laws in force to catch up with these changes. These AUMFs have survived their use,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said Wednesday. “The powers of war are in the hands of Congress, and so we have an obligation to prevent future presidents from exploiting these AUMFs to drag us into another conflict in the Middle East.”
Senate Republicans who joined Democrats in advancing the bill earlier this month included anti-interventionist skeptics of U.S. military aid to Ukraine like Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), as well as moderate Republicans, like Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who have strongly supported Ukraine’s aid and US commitment to NATO.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) remained strongly opposed to the bill, although he was not present during procedural votes on the bill. McConnell has been out since his fall and suffered a concussion and a broken rib at a private dinner earlier this month.
“I object to Congress rescinding any authorization for military force in the Middle East,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday. “Our terrorist enemies are not stopping their war against us. And when we deploy our military in danger, we must provide them with all the support and legal authorities we can. »
In the House, several Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already publicly expressed support for the legislation. Conservatives and liberal organizations – from Heritage Action to Common Defense – have urged the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the bill.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he would support repealing the 1991 and 2002 authorizations, as long as they did not touch a separate 2001 authorization enacted after the 9/11 attacks “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” In an 86-9 vote, the Senate last week rejected an amendment to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) bill that would have repealed the 2001 authorization.
“I still want to act if there are terrorists anywhere in the world,” McCarthy told reporters March 21 during a GOP retreat in Florida. “If we keep this one  AUMF and removing another, that’s personally where I’m at.
The Senate also last week rejected an amendment by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) that would have provided more focused authority under the 2002 authorization.
The House most recently voted to repeal the 2002 authorization for military force in Iraq in 2021, with all but one Democratic vote. Forty-nine Republicans also helped push the bill through at the time, many from the moderate and far-right wings of the conference. A majority of Republicans opposed the measure, arguing at the time that ending existing AUMFs could weaken the United States’ position to respond to current, more modern threats.
The White House has already indicated that President Biden would sign the bill if it made it to his office, noting that the United States has no ongoing military activity that relies primarily on either authorization.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), led the effort to repeal military force clearances before the 20th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq this month, noting that Iraq is now a strategic partner, not an “enemy” state as it was when the United States invaded the country in 2003.
Young said the effort to repeal permissions transcends party politics, political philosophies or geography. The anniversary is a time to honor the 1.5 million Americans who served in the Iraq War, as well as a time to “reflect on where the powers of war rest” in the United States, Kaine and Young in a joint op-ed for Fox News published earlier this month.
“The troops we are honoring this month might be surprised to know that the legal authorization to wage war on Iraq is still in effect today, even though it serves no operational purpose and the ‘Iraq is now a strategic partner,’ they wrote.
To give an idea of the obsolete nature of these authorizations, Kaine and Young pointed out that only three of the 100 members of the current Senate were in office when the Gulf War was authorized in 1991. Only a handful of members of the current Congress were in office. . office when Operation Iraqi Freedom was authorized in 2002.
Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.