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Senate votes to repeal authorizations for Gulf and Iraq wars

The GOP-led House has yet to take up the measure, which has caused more internal divisions among Republicans than Democrats.

WASHINGTON — The Senate advanced bipartisan legislation Wednesday to repeal the authorizations Congress passed in 1991 and 2002 for the U.S. wars in Iraq.

The bill, passed on a 66-30 vote, would repeal the authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, for the Gulf War in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush and for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush.

Notably, the bill would not affect the authorization of force Congress passed in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks. Presidents have relied on the post-9/11 measure as part of the so-called war on terror to authorize military operations against terrorist organizations considered threats to the U.S.

The White House recently said President Joe Biden would sign the legislation if it came to his desk.

Its fate in the GOP-led House is less clear.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., recently said “I’d have to look at what their bill does first” when he was asked whether he would bring it up for consideration.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday that he did not support repealing the authorizations of force.

"I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East. Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us," he said in a statement, adding that "the 2002 AUMF bears directly on the threats we face today in Iraq and Syria from Iran-backed terrorists."

A convoy of U.S. Army tanks driving down the road from Kuwait towards Dhahran in the Saudi desert as U.S. troops begin their withdrawal from Kuwait on March 5, 1991.
A convoy of U.S. Army tanks drives down the road from Kuwait toward Dhahran in the Saudi desert as U.S. troops begin their withdrawal from Kuwait on March 5, 1991.Mike Nelson / AFP via Getty Images file

In 2020, President Donald Trump invoked the 2002 authorization of force in the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

The U.S. withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011, when Biden was vice president.

The Senate recently voted on several amendments to the war powers repeal bill, one of which would have repealed the post-9/11 war authorization. That measure failed in a 9-86 vote.

On Monday, the Senate advanced the authorization of force bill in a 65-28 procedural vote that got support from 18 Republicans.

Congress has previously fallen short of passing repeals of the Gulf and Iraq war authorizations, largely because of intense division over the 2001 measure. Over the last decade, a number of lawmakers have called for its reversal, arguing that the authorizing language was overly broad and that the measure has been misused. But the debate has often hit an impasse, with some members of Congress wanting to modify the language and others wanting to keep it intact.

In 2021, when Democrats controlled the House, a bill to repeal the 2002 authorization of force passed with support from 49 Republicans. The Senate, however, never took up the bill.