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Wall Street Journal: House Votes to Repeal Two Older Military Force Authorizations

WALL STREET JOURNAL, LINDSAY WISE

The House voted 366-46 to repeal two decades-old authorizations of the use of military force in the Middle East, or AUMFs, as Congress moves to reassert its constitutional powers to declare war.

The bills, which were voted on together on Tuesday with other pieces of legislation that had broad bipartisan support, would terminate the 1991 Gulf War AUMF, 30 years after its enactment in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and a little-known 1957 AUMF passed during the Cold War to counter “the possibility of Communist aggression” in the Middle East. The latter has never been invoked by any administration to justify military operations, however.

“The short military conflict that took place under this authority has been over for three decades and we must remove this old inactive authority from the books,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), the sponsor of the bill to revoke the 1991 authorization. “Repealing this AUMF would help ensure that it is not misused or stretched by any American president going forward.”

A bigger fight over military authorizations lies ahead, as some members of Congress push to repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF that Congress passed in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That authorization is broader and more frequently used than other AUMFs. It granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to go after any persons or groups associated or linked in any way to the terrorist attacks.

Repealing the 1957 AUMF would have no impact on ongoing operations, and it should be taken off the books immediately, said Rep. Peter Meijer (R., Mich.), who sponsored the bill to repeal it.

“The War on Terror has demonstrated, among other things, the dangers of a Congress that neglects its constitutional duty to oversee matters of war and peace. It is time for Congress to get back in the habit of vigorously debating and voting on these issues,” he said.

Repealing the 1991 and 1957 AUMFs is less controversial than repealing the 2002 AUMF for the war in Iraq, which the House voted to do earlier this month, 268-161.

A bipartisan Senate bill that would repeal the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs is expected to get a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has pledged to bring it to the floor later this year.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday that he didn’t know the fate of the 2002 AUMF in the Senate, but he expected the repeal of the 1991 authorization to sail through.

“It’s a very historic moment because it could be the first time in my memory that Congress has finally reasserted its Article I authority and cleaned up very outdated, old AUMFs,” Mr. McCaul said. “So I see this as a very positive day, working together as Republicans and Democrats.”