The House passed legislation to revoke the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) for the Iraq War on Thursday, a significant move in efforts to curb presidential war powers.
Forty-eight Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure, with proponents arguing the 2002 authorization is no longer necessary.
“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 Rep. Barbara Lee ( D-Calif.), who spearheaded efforts on the bill.
“We can’t afford to leave this in place indefinitely. For two decades, it has been in place. This is our opportunity to restore our constitutional role.”
The authorization was initially passed to allow the George W. Bush administration to use military force to target President Saddam Hussein’s regime, and cited when making the argument to authorize military use against other adversaries in the years that followed.
Critics argued that its repeal could hinder US counterterrorism efforts, noting it was used as part of the legal rationale that allowed President Donald Trump’s administration to move forward with the January 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“This feels like yet another political effort to undo one of President Trump’s boldest counterterrorism successes. Using the 2002 AUMF to remove Soleimani from the battlefield. Soleimani was Iran’s mastermind of terror for decades,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the floor.
“And while the 2002 AUMF was largely about Saddam Hussein, it also clearly addressed the terrorist threats emanating from Iraq. All prior administrations, Republican and Democrat, have used it for that purpose. Today, the biggest threat in Iraq is not Saddam Hussein, we can all recognize that, but it is the Iran-sponsored terrorist groups attacking our diplomats, our soldiers, our embassy, and our citizens. They cannot be targeted using the 2001 AUMF because they are not associated with the forces of al Qaeda, the Taliban, or ISIS. But they can be targeted using the 2002 AUMF, as the prior administration did to take out Soleimani, consistent with longstanding practices.”
The House previously passed legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization, but the measure was not taken up in the then-Republican-controlled upper chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has voiced support for the move, saying he will bring the measure to the floor.
“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade,” he said. “The authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021.”
The White House has also said President Biden backs the repeal.
“The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” the administration said in a statement Monday.