The House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 law that authorized the invasion of Iraq.
It was a victory for lawmakers and anti-war activists, who are now poised for an even greater victory: to kill the controversial measure and limit presidential war powers.
Forty-nine Republicans and all but one of 220 Democrats voted for a bill removing the nearly 20-year-old authorization for the use of military force, which enabled the US president to deploy forces against Saddam Hussein’s regime and pursue broader goals in Iraq.
The new bill was developed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), A longtime critic of aggressive U.S. foreign policy. Because of how she and her allies have pushed politicians to heed the United States’ overstretching overseas, the Senate and President Joe Biden are expected to help end the authorization this year. Senators are about to consider comlegislation panion next week that is supported by Democratic leaders and major Republicans, and the Biden administration said Monday it supports repeal.
“After nearly 20 years of fighting for this, we are finally one step closer to the end of Eternal Wars”, Lee tweeted Thursday.
Withdrawal of the authorization would not immediately end ongoing US military operations. Yet skeptics of US foreign entanglements see the repeal of the authorization as a big step in reforming Washington’s approach to world affairs.
This would remove one of the legal justifications cited by officials for moves such as airstrikes. It would also confirm that lawmakers are increasingly wary of hawkish policies and their supporters and are ready to play a larger role in war and peace.
“For too long, most members of Congress have shirked their constitutional obligation to decide if and where our nation goes to war. That an 18-year-old clearance for a war that officially ended 10 years ago remains on the books today is a perfect symbol of that inaction, ”said Erica Fein, Washington director for the nonprofit. Win Without War, after the vote. “The repeal of the AUMF of 2002 would be a crucial start for the reform of the powers of war, but we must not stop there. “
The success against the 2002 authorization could also pave the way for a debate on another authorization which was adopted a few days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and allows action against its authors and their partners. Presidents have more frequently cited this 2001 measure to give the green light to military operations because it gives them greater latitude in identifying targets than the 2002 authorization, which specifically refers to Iraq.
Lee was the only congressman to vote against the 2001 authorization, calling it a “blank check” and accurately predicting that it would be benchmarked for a wide range of operations.
In approving the repeal of the 2002 authorization, the Biden administration noted, “The United States has no ongoing military activity that relies solely on the 2002 AUMF as its national legal basis, and the repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on the current military. operations. “
Democrats previously voted against the 2002 authorization after taking control of the House in 2018, and President Barack Obama said in 2014 he supported the repeal. But most Republicans and some leading Democrats have opposed the move for years, arguing it would weaken the United States’ ability to deal with threats.
Now the authorization faces fatal bipartisan pressure due to the growing influence of advocates of a more sober foreign policy on the left and right.
In recent years, anti-war figures have focused Congress on one of America’s most brutal military interventions: the civil war in Yemen. They have demonstrated their influence by passing bipartisan legislation against this involvement, including rare war powers resolutions to ban US aid to Saudi-led forces striking Yemenis.
Former President Donald Trump’s disastrous handling of national security has also helped boost congressional control. Trump pointed to the 2002 authorization in his controversial assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and his saber-rattling with Iran prompted lawmakers to pass a bipartisan war powers resolution demanding Capitol Hill approval for any attack on the country. (Asset vetoed the bills on Iran and Yemen.)
Meanwhile, progressives have urged Democrats to prioritize human rights internationally and reflect on America’s missteps, as the Republican Party’s muddle in Trump-era foreign policy. offered an opportunity for conservatives who want a more limited American presence abroad to gain more leverage.
Senator Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), who could face a left-wing challenger in a primary next year, approved the repeal of the 2002 authorization for the first time on Wednesday, and the network Koch – a major player in GOP activism – urged his allies to support the repeal, noting that one of his champions is Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.).
On Thursday, 38 more Republicans in the House voted to repeal the authorization than the last time the proposal was passed, in January 2020.
But a complete overhaul in the use of military force will involve much bigger changes, and many politicians and national security officials remain cautious of restrictions on US military action.
The Biden administration’s statement on the repeal effort reflected this view. “As the Administration works with Congress to reform [authorizations for the use of military force], it will be essential to maintain clear authority to deal with threats to US national interests through appropriate and decisive military action, ”the Office of Management and Budget said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote Tuesday on whether to repeal the 2002 authorization, as well as another 1991 authorization focused on Iraq.
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