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Senate to vote on repeal of authorizations for Iraq, Gulf wars



The Senate is poised to vote Wednesday on a bill that would repeal decades-old authorizations for use of military force for the Iraq and Persian Gulf wars, legislation the White House has signaled it will back.

The bill is likely to pass with strong bipartisan support, as it did in procedural votes earlier this month that brought together an unusual coalition of lawmakers.

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 abuse by presidential administrations that have used the old authorizations — and still could — to launch unrelated combat operations without congressional approval on where and when to send troops.

“Americans want to see an end to endless Middle East wars,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in floor remarks last Thursday. “Passing this AUMF [authorization for use of military force] repeal is a necessary step to putting these bitter conflicts squarely behind us.”

The Senate Republicans who joined Democrats to advance 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, such as Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who have strongly supported Ukraine aid and America’s commitment to NATO.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has remained steadfastly opposed to the bill, though he was not present for procedural votes on the legislation. McConnell has been absent since he fell and suffered a concussion and a broken rib at a private dinner earlier this month.

“I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East,” McConnell said in a statement Tuesday. “Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us. And when we deploy our servicemembers in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can.”

In the House, several Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already publicly expressed support for the legislation. Both 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.) has said he would support repealing the 1991 and 2002 authorizations, as long as they did not touch a separate 2001 authorization enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks “to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” In an 86-9 vote, the Senate last week soundly rejected an amendment to the bill by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would have repealed the 2001 authorization.

“I still want to take actions if there are terrorists anywhere around the world,” McCarthy told reporters March 21 at a GOP retreat in Florida. “If we’re keeping that one [2001] AUMF and removing another one, that’s personally where I am.”

The Senate also rejected last week an amendment by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that would have provided for more targeted 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 Democrat voting in support. Forty-nine Republicans also helped pass the bill then, many of whom were from the moderate and hard-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’ posture in responding to current, more modern threats.


The White House has already indicated that President Biden would sign the bill if it reached his desk, noting that the United States conducts no ongoing military activities that rely primarily on either authorization.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), spearheaded the effort to repeal the authorizations of military force before the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War 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 has said the effort to repeal the authorizations transcends party politics, political philosophies or geography. The anniversary is a time to honor the 1.5 million Americans who served during the Iraq War, as well as a time for “reflection on where war powers rest” in the United States, Kaine and Young wrote in a joint op-ed for Fox News published earlier this month.

“Those troops we honor this month may be surprised to know the legal authorization to wage war against Iraq is still on the books today, even though it serves no operational purpose and Iraq is now a strategic partner,” they wrote.

To give a sense of how outdated these authorizations are, 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 when Operation Iraqi Freedom was authorized in 2002.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

Source: Washington Post


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