POLITICO Pro: Bipartisan lawmakers unveil bill to repeal trio of ‘outdated’ war powers

POLITICO PRO, CONNOR O’BRIEN

A bipartisan cadre of House lawmakers on Thursday rolled out legislation to repeal three dated military authorizations for conflicts in the Middle East, including one resolution dating back to the Eisenhower administration.

The measure — offered by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) — is the latest salvo in a fight by lawmakers in both parties to repeal decades-old war authorizations and pare back presidential war powers.

‘Off the books’: The measure, known as the “Outdated AUMF Repeal Act,” would immediately rescind the 2002 authorization passed ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as well as the 1991 Gulf War authorization. The measure also would repeal a broad Cold War-era military authorization for the Middle East passed in 1957 that remains on the books.

The bills’ sponsors argued clearing out the decades-old measures is a first step toward a broader overhaul of the war powers that govern the myriad conflicts in which U.S. troops are engaged.

“Congress has abdicated its Article 1 authority for too long. By taking these outdated authorizations off the books, we can start to reclaim our constitutional war powers,” Gallagher said in a statement.

“The 1957, 1991, and 2002 AUMFs are no longer relevant and their repeal would not impact ongoing operations,” he added. “War powers are this institution’s most important constitutional responsibility, and it’s critical we take this small but significant step forward to reassert Congressional authority.”

Though the conflicts for which the AUMFs were specifically adopted have either ended or are winding down, the lawmakers warned that keeping them on the books could leave them open to abuses by the executive branch. Former President Donald Trump, for instance, invoked the 2002 Iraq War authorization as one of the legal justifications for the 2020 killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

“Several authorities still on the books — like the AUMF used to authorize the Gulf War or the AUMF used to invade Iraq in 2002 — are not only outdated, but are vulnerable to being exploited by future administrations to justify deployments of thousands of American servicemen and women into new foreign countries,” Spanberger said.

Push for reforms: President Joe Biden’s recent airstrike on Iranian-backed militias in Syria, which followed rocket attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, has reopened a war powers debate on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has pledged to hold a vote on legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization in the coming weeks.

In the Senate, Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Todd Young of Indiana have introduced legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 measures.

Though there is bipartisan support for repealing outdated war authorizations, some lawmakers are also undertaking the far trickier effort to repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF that now governs numerous counterterror operations.

The White House has said Biden supports reining in war powers and giving lawmakers greater say in military action by scrubbing AUMFs on the books now and enacting narrower frameworks for military action.

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