Two decades later, US Senate eyes repeal of Iraq war authorization

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that the Senate will vote to repeal two decades-old measures giving open-ended approval for military action in Iraq, raising the hopes of a bipartisan group of senators who want to reclaim congressional powers over US military strikes and deployments.

The vote, which would come after consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could take place just before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. It would repeal the 2002 measure that greenlighted that March 2003 invasion, along with a separate 1991 measure that sanctioned the US-led Gulf War to expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

“Every year we keep this authorization to use military force on the books is another chance for a future president to abuse or misuse it,” Schumer said. “War powers belong squarely in the hands of Congress, and that implies that we have a responsibility to prevent future presidents from hijacking this AUMF to bumble us into a new war.”

He was referring to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

The bill, led by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., passed the Senate Foreign Relations panel and the then-Democratic-led House in 2021. But it never came up for a vote in the full Senate, despite significant bipartisan support.

The Iraq war authorizations “are no longer necessary, serve no operational purpose, and run the risk of potential misuse,” Kaine said Thursday.

The House is now led by Republicans, and it’s unclear if leaders would bring the bill up for a vote. Forty-nine House Republicans supported the legislation two years ago, but current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy opposed it.

The Biden administration has supported the move, arguing that ending the war authorization against Iraq of the Saddam Hussein era would make clear that the Iraq government of today is a partner of the United States. It would also remove a grievance for rival Iran to exploit, State Department officials have said.

But Republican opponents have argued that revoking the two authorizations for military force would signal US weakness to Iran.

“The ayatollah is listening to this debate,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said, referring to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, when the panel debated the legislation two years ago.

Republicans also pointed out that President Donald Trump’s administration had cited the 2002 Iraq war resolution as part of its legal justification for a 2020 US drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani.

Supporters of the repeal said presidents should instead come to Congress.

“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,” said Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican sponsor of the bill in the House. “We must do our job.”

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