Courthouse News Service: House Repeals Pair of Outdated Military Force Authorizations

COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE, SAMANTHA HAWKINS

The House voted 366-46 to repeal two outdated, inactive military force authorizations Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to rein in presidential war powers: the Gulf War authorization from 1991 and an Eisenhower-era anti-communist military authorization. 

The repeals were included in a seven-bill package and required a two-thirds majority to pass. 

The point of the 1991 law was to authorize military force in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, but it still remains in force 30 years later, Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, explained on the House floor Monday. 

“The specific point of this law was accomplished,”  McCaul said. “There’s no point to leave it on the books and it’s very different than the 2002 AUMF [authorization for use of military force] repealed before. This can’t be used legally to launch new military engagements in the 21st century.”

Proponents say that repealing AUMFs will have little to no impact on current military operations, but will eliminate the danger of future administrations abusing them, as they believe Congress has relinquished too much of its war-making authority to the White House. 

“Only Congress can declare war. We have steadily surrendered this decision to the executive branch,” said Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia who introduced the authorization repeal.

“The conflict that took place has been over for three decades, we must remove this old inactive authority from the books repealing it ensures it is not misused or stretched by any American president going forward,” Spanberger added.

The package approved Tuesday also includes a repeal of a 1957 resolution that authorized military force in the Middle East to protect against armed conflict with countries “controlled by international communism.”

Earlier this month, the House voted 268-161 to repeal the 2002 Iraq War military authorization that gave the executive branch a wide range of authority after the 9/11 terror attacks — and was viewed as the simplest authorization to phase out. 

“Once we pass a repeal of the 2002 AUMF, we must keep up our fight to repeal the 2001 AUMF so that no future president has the unilateral power to plunge us into endless wars,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who has pushed for the repeals for years. 

Both the Obama and Trump administrations opposed the repeal measures, but President Joe Biden gave his stamp of approval for winding down the authorizations. 

Despite a largely bipartisan vote, some House Republicans believe that the repeal process was rushed, and national security officials should have been consulted first — or that there should be replacement measures in place first to address modern day security threats. 

Spanberger described Representatives Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin, Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine, and Fred Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, as critical partners in the effort to repeal. 

“We come from different political persuasions, but share backgrounds in national security,” she said. 

The legislation heads next to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he intends to bring it to the floor for a vote sometime this year. 

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