WASHINGTON: The US Senate easily passed legislation on Wednesday to repeal two decades-old authorizations for past wars in Iraq, as Congress pushes to reassert its role in deciding whether to send troops into combat 20 years after the last invasion.
The Democratic-led Senate voted 66-30 in favor of legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs, a bipartisan majority well above the 51 votes needed to pass the measure that would formally end the Gulf and Iraq wars.
To become law, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has signaled support for the repeal of the two Iraq AUMFs in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
In a news conference last week, he stated that the matter should be first reviewed by a House committee, rather than going straight to a floor vote.
President Joe Biden has said he will sign the measure if it passes both the Senate and House and reaches his desk.
Twenty years after the March 2003 US invasion that toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the vote was a historic, if symbolic, step away from a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans, complicated policy in the Middle East and bitterly divided US politics.
Supporters of repeal also said it recognized that Iraq is no longer an adversary but has become a US security partner.
The resolution also would repeal the Gulf War AUMF approved in 1991 after Saddam’s Iraq invaded Kuwait.
People have labeled the Iraq AUMFs as “zombie” authorizations because they never expire, but their original purpose no longer applies.
Those who supported the repeal said that it was also the latest effort by US lawmakers to reclaim congressional authority over whether to send troops into combat.
Their argument was that the Senate and the House had passed open-ended war authorizations, but failed to repeal them, resulting in the authority being improperly ceded to the White House.
“Senator Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said before the vote that this vote showed Congress’s preparedness to call back their constitutional role in deciding how and when a nation goes to war, and also when it should end wars.”
“It also protects against future administrations abusing authorizations that outlive their mandate but still remain on the books,” Menendez said.
Under the US constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war.
Lawmakers have been divided over whether to let the AUMFs stand, leaving it to military commanders to decide how best to fight US enemies. As a result, no AUMF repeals have passed since 1971, although some have passed committees or one chamber of Congress.
In 1971, Congress voted to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had provided authority for the Vietnam War.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a House hearing that it was up to Congress to decide whether to repeal the Iraq AUMFs, but that the military could still “do what we need to do” based on a separate AUMF passed in after the September 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action against extremists.
McConnell, who is out of Washington recovering from a fall, issued a statement opposing the repeal.
“Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us. And when we deploy our service member’s in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can,” he said, citing recent attacks such as one last week in Syria that killed one American and wounded six others.
Published on Logical Baat, March 30,2023.