Dem Iraq War vets renew AUMF push on 15th anniversary of war

Dem Iraq War vets renew AUMF push on 15th anniversary of war
© Greg Nash

A pair of Democratic lawmakers who served in the Iraq War questioned Tuesday whether Congress has learned anything in the 15 years since the U.S. invaded the country.

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense & National Security — Austin mandates vaccine for Guardsmen Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' MORE (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Poll shows Sinema's popularity dropping further among Arizona Democrats Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (D-Ariz.) used the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion to reaffirm a push for Congress to take up a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). 

“I don’t feel like overall Congress has learned its lesson, and I think most people would rather just keep their heads down and not have this vote,” Duckworth told reporters.

Gallego said he think Congress better understands the consequences of military action since the Iraq War, but agreed with Duckworth that lawmakers haven't acted on those lessons.

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"I certainly think there has been a better understanding of how military adventurism can go wrong and in what we saw happen in Iraq because we went under false premises and then we ended up not really having a good plan about what to do and how to exit and how to stabilize a country," he said. "So that’s a lesson that now Congress has learned."

"But I do agree also with Tammy in the sense that they’re not doing anything," he continued. "Again, it’s the best of both worlds — they don’t have to take a hard vote, the Pentagon gets what they want because they just get to operate under this old AUMF. And the Democrats are just as responsible for this as the Republicans."

The Trump administration cites the 2001 AUMF passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as legal justification for a slew of current military operations, as the Obama administration did before it. To a lesser extent, officials also cite the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War.

Some lawmakers have been pushing for years to repeal those two AUMFs and pass a new one more tailored to the world today, but their efforts have consistently stalled amid partisan disputes about whether to impose constraints on time, ground troops and geography.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to mark up a new AUMF on April 19, Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) announced on the Senate floor Tuesday. But speaking to reporters later Tuesday, he conceded he doesn’t “know the likelihood of it getting on the floor.”

Duckworth said she’s more hopeful an AUMF will pass the House before it passes the Senate.

“Part of it is actually getting more bipartisan Iraq and Afghanistan veterans into both bodies, both the House and the Senate,” she said. “I’m more hopeful that something is going to come up out of the House, just because there are more members over there who are veterans."

Gallego agreed, pointing to the alignment of House Democrats and conservatives on the issue. Still, he acknowledged there will likely not be any movement on the issue before the midterm elections in the fall.

“We feel fairly confident we will get an AUMF,” said Gallego, who has co-sponsored one of the more recently introduced efforts. “We have the Freedom Caucus and a lot of other Republicans that do agree with us that this is handing too much power to the executive branch. I think we’ve seen a stronger alignment within our Democratic caucus that an AUMF needs to be brought up for a reauthorization, and I think the combination of those two forces will potentially bring this to a close earlier, but likely not until after the elections, so next year.”