Senate votes to proceed with repeal of authorizations for Iraq, Gulf wars

The Senate on Thursday voted 68-27 to advance legislation that would repeal two war authorizations against Iraq, both of which remain on the books long after the conflicts have ended and as Iraq is now considered a strategic partner.

The procedural vote means the bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the invasion of Iraq and the 1991 Gulf War AUMF can now be considered and debated ahead of a vote for final passage, which could be as soon as next week to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war.

If the Senate passes the bill, it will have to be taken up by the House, which introduced similar bipartisan legislation earlier this year.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), passed out of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month on a bipartisan 13-8 vote. 

On the Senate floor ahead of Thursday’s vote, Young said repealing the war authorizations would send a “very important message” to Iraq and other allies and “arrest the trend of giving away our war powers to an unchecked executive.”

“Let us be clear: Saddam Hussein is dead,” Young said, referring to the Iraqi leader who was toppled by American forces in 2003. “And we’re no longer worried about the threat by Iraq.”

Since both war authorizations are still active, they can technically be used — or misused, some argue — by a sitting president. Former President Trump justified a 2020 strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in part by citing the 2002 AUMF.

Previous attempts to repeal the AUMFs have failed to pass, but the current measures have solid bipartisan backing. On Thursday, President Biden also signaled his support for legislation should it make it to his desk.

Kaine said the AUMF repeals were “long overdue” and war authorizations were one of the most important powers granted to Congress.

“How dare we as Congress not have an urge to simply say after 20 years this war is over, the job is done,” he said. “We owe it to our servicemembers to fulfill our constitutional obligations and vote to end endless wars.”

The Gulf War ended in 1991 after a brief U.S.-led military campaign in Kuwait and some parts of Iraq to combat Iraqi forces that invaded Kuwait.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq formally ended in 2011, when President Obama pulled troops out of the country.

Iraq is now a key ally in the Middle East and the U.S. maintains strong engagement with the nation on economic and security matters, including a limited military role to assist partner forces in combating the U.S.-designated terrorist group ISIS.

Kaine on Thursday said repealing the AUMF would signal to foreign adversaries the U.S. can “turn a sword into a ploughshare.”

“The repeal of this sends the message you may be our adversary today, just as Iraq once was, but the U.S. specializes in turning adversaries into partners, allies and friends,” he said.

Congress also passed an AUMF in 2001 to fight against the war on terrorism following the 9/11 attacks, which remains on the books and has been used to justify operations in multiple countries, including in Iraq.

Tags Gulf war Iraq War Joe Biden Tim Kaine Tim Kaine Todd Young Todd Young

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