House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War Empowerment

The Democratic-led House, with President Joe Biden's funding, passed legislation Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for use of military power in Iraq, a measure which advocates said was necessary for Congress to reassert its constitutional obligation to weigh in on matters of warfare. Detractors worried it would embolden militias or terrorist groups.

House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War Empowerment

The repeal was passed overwhelmingly, 268-161.

Supporters said repeal wouldn't affect U.S. military operations across the world, but could prevent a president by relying upon the 2002 authorization to conduct unrelated military actions. The White House says there are no continuing military actions reliant solely upon this authorization.

The authorization was directed against the authorities of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, authorizing the"necessary and appropriate" use of force to"shield U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to"enforce all applicable" U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq.

"Repeal is essential because the executive branch includes a history of extending" the authorization's legal authority, said Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It has been used as justification for military activities against entities that had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist dictatorship simply because these entities were operating in Iraq."

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he concurred that the authorization was outdated, but he argued that Congress should not repeal it without also approving a replacement.

"We should not encourage any president to go it alone without Article I congressional authorization," McCaul said.

The activity follows years of debate over whether Congress has ceded a lot of its own war-making ability to the White House. Many lawmakers, especially Democrats, state passage of the 2002 authorization was an error, and some Republicans agree the jurisdiction should be taken off the books. Some lawmakers say the 2001 resolution to fight terrorism, passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, should be reexamined as well.

As a senator in 2002, Biden voted for the resolution that President George W. Bush used to invade Iraq the following year. Biden wasn't regarded as a leading critic of that 2003 military operation at the time, despite his own claims as a presidential candidate in 2020.

Biden faced considerable criticism because of its vote during the Democratic main campaign. He and his aides, such as now-Secretary of State Tony Blinken, originally defended the vote by saying the Bush administration wanted more leverage against Hussein and that Biden had not intended his vote because a blank check. Biden finally called the resolution a mistake.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, the bill's sponsor, said that 87% of the present members of the House weren't in Congress in 2002 and the authorization for military force passed at the time bears no significance to the threats the country faces today. She also was the lone vote against the 2001 auhtorization after Sept. 11.

"For this day, our endless warfare continues costing trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives in a war that goes way beyond any scope that Congress imagined or planned," Lee stated.

Schumer had stated on Wednesday that"the Iraq War has been over for almost a decade" and that"the authorization passed in 2002 is no more mandatory in 2021."

The White House said Biden is dedicated to working with Congress to upgrade the consent with a"narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we may continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats."

Schumer said he wished to be clear that laws terminating the use of force in Iraq does not indicate the U.S. is abandoning the nation and the shared struggle against the Islamic State team. He said the step would eliminate the possibility of a future administration"reaching back into the legal dustbin to use it as a justification for military adventurism."

He also cited that the Washington-directed drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani in January 2020 for instance.

The Trump government said Soleimani was plotting a set of strikes that endangered many American officials and troops across the Middle East. The national security adviser at that time, Robert O'Brien, told reporters that President Donald Trump exercised America's right to self-defense and that the attack was a completely authorized action under the 2002 authorization to use military force.

"There is no good reason to permit this legal authority to persist if another reckless commander in chief attempts the identical trick later on," Schumer said.

In the Senate, key lawmakers are focusing on a bill that will repeal not only the 2002 authorization, but also the 1991 authorization for use of force in Iraq, which remains on the books. The 1991 authorization gave President George H.W. Bush the power to use force against Iraq to enforce a string of Security Council resolutions passed in reaction to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

The Senate and House would have to work out any differences in their statements and vote on a final product before it could proceed to Biden's desk to be signed into law.

In the end, legislation terminating the 2002 authorization will require 60 votes in an evenly divided Senate to overcome procedural hurdles.

"We used it for Soleimani and there might be another Soleimani out there," Inhofe said.

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