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House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization

The White House supports the repeal, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would bring it to the floor for a vote.
Image: A U.S. marine covers the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag before toppling the statue downtown Baghdad
A U.S. Marine covers the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag before the statue was toppled in Baghdad on April 9, 2003.Jerome Delay / AP file

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted to repeal the 2002 war powers resolution that authorized the use of military force in Iraq, a reversal that Democrats have been trying to enact for years.

The resolution passed 268-161, mainly along party lines, though 49 Republicans joined the Democratic majority in favor of repeal while one Democrat joined Republicans in opposition.

The White House said this week that it supports the repeal, proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who led the opposition in Congress to the Iraq War, because “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.”

Since its passage almost two decades ago, at least three presidents have used the military authorization to justify military actions against a range of targets for which critics say it was never intended.

Those in favor of repealing the AUMF said it ceded too much of Congress' constitutional war making authority to the executive branch. Those opposed to its repeal said it was irresponsible to repeal the AUMF without a replacement, though other military force authorizations remain on the books.

The White House said President Joe Biden is committed to working with Congress to ensure “that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats."

The repeal of the war powers resolutions from 2002 as well as from 2001, which authorized the U.S.-led invasion into Afghanistan, has come up for debate numerous times through the years, typically when presidents have relied on them for military action. Democrats especially have criticized the Iraq war resolution as a mistake predicated on false intelligence about the threat of weapons of mass destruction and have said the 2001 resolution has given presidents too much leeway to wage war.

In 2011, President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops in Iraq but redeployed the military in 2014, citing the war authorizations, to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, known as ISIS. Biden has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

In early 2020, the House adopted a resolution to limit President Donald Trump’s military actions in Iran after the United States killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iran retaliated with a ballistic missile attack against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that he plans to bring the Iraq war authorization repeal to the Senate floor.

“The Iraq war has been over for nearly a decade, an authorization passed in 2002 was no longer necessary in 2021,” Schumer said. “It's been nearly 10 years since this particular authorization has been cited as a primary justification for military — for a military operation. It no longer serves a vital purpose in our fight against violent extremists in the Middle East.”

Lee’s measure previously was passed by the House as part of defense policy bills but was never signed into law.

Alex Seitz-Wald contributed.