House Votes To Repeal 2002 AUMF, Bill That Vastly Expanded Presidential War Powers

By Andrew Trunsky

The House of Representatives Thursday voted to repeal the 2002 bill that cleared the way for the multi-decade conflict in Iraq, a first step in Congress’ bid to rein in presidential war powers.

The bill passed with bipartisan support, reflecting both parties’ growing opposition to presidential war powers that have expanded throughout nearly all of the 21st Century. It passed 268 to 161, with 49 Republicans and 219 Democrats voting in favor.

Support for repealing the 2002 Authorized Use of Military Force is not limited to the House. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his support of the repeal Wednesday, two days after President Joe Biden backed the effort to terminate it.

“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. The authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” Schumer said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Biden is the first president to support repealing any AUMF, though he noted in a statement Monday that it “has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis,” and that repealing the law “would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.” It is not the first time an AUMF repeal has been introduced and considered with bipartisan support.

The repeal, sponsored by California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, would repeal just the 2002 AUMF, not the 2001 version that was signed a year earlier in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The 2001 AUMF granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to go after those connected in any way to the attacks, and has been used more frequently to expand presidential war powers. The 2002 AUMF authorizes military force to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” and is thus less frequently employed.

The Trump administration, however, relied on the 2002 AUMF to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, since he was in Iraq when he was killed.

The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young, and would also repeal a 1991 version of the AUMF relating to the Gulf War. Any bill relating to an AUMF repeal, however, must secure 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster.

While there is growing support to repeal the 2002 AUMF, the Senate legislation would update the 2001 version instead of discarding it completely, arguing that doing so would severely limit the president’s ability to respond to foreign terrorist threats.

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Author: Andrew Trunsky

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