Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Revive Efforts to Repeal Gulf War and Iraq War Authorizations

WALL STREET JOURNAL, LINDSAY WISE

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate relaunched a bipartisan effort Thursday to repeal two decades-old authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, the latest in an effort by Congress to reassert its constitutional power over declarations of war.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) and Todd Young (R., Ind.) joined Reps. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Chip Roy (R., Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) and Tom Cole (R., Okla.) in reintroducing legislation that would revoke the 1991 authorization for the use of military force in the Gulf War and the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war.

Repealing the authorizations would formally end those wars, the lawmakers said, and rein in the president’s ability to unilaterally send American troops into harm’s way abroad. They said it wouldn’t affect current operations in the Middle East or prevent the U.S. from responding militarily to a threat in the future, if needed.

“I actually have a pretty broad view of what the president’s authority is to act as the commander in chief,” Mr. Roy said. “But there’s a limit, right? Time, there’s a limit in scope. And then Congress has to act.”

The White House has previously said it is committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations “are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.”

The House previously voted to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations in June 2021, when the chamber was controlled by Democrats. The 2002 authorization’s repeal passed 268-161, with 49 Republicans and 219 Democrats voting in favor. The 1991 repeal passed the House 366-46.

Mr. Roy acknowledged this week that it could be a challenge to get the bill to the floor in the House, which flipped to Republican control this year.

“The point really here is if you have a bill that doesn’t have majority of Republicans’ support, will it get to the floor?” he said. “There’s a threshold question, and look, I’m going to be sensitive to where the conference is on that.…I certainly support it. I’d like to see his movement. But you know, you gotta go work it, to go build the numbers.”

The Senate version of the bill passed the Foreign Relations Committee in August 2021, though it has yet to make it to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. To advance in that chamber, the bill would have to win the support of 60 senators—including at least 10 Republicans if all Democrats vote in favor. It now has 11 Republican co-sponsors.

“We really wanted to come out of the gate strong with the introduction to show on the Senate side we can get over 60 votes,” Mr. Kaine said.

He sees passing the 2002 and 1991 repeals as a first step toward broader changes, including repealing and replacing the 2001 authorization that Congress passed in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The 2001 authorization is broader and more frequently used than other authorizations for the use of military force, or AUMFs. It granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to go after any persons or groups associated with or linked in any way to the terrorist attacks.

Ms. Lee noted that three presidents have come and gone since Congress last voted to authorize a U.S. invasion of Iraq, and a fourth is now in office.

“Yet the legacy of these horrific forever wars lives on in the form of the now-obsolete 2002 and 1991 AUMFs…It’s far past time to put decisions of military action back in the hands of the people, as the constitution intended,” she said.

Ms. Lee was the lone vote in Congress against the use of force after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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