House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal in ‘coming weeks’

Greg Nash

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider in the “coming weeks” a bill to repeal the 2002 war authorization, the committee’s chairman said Friday.

“Given that the 2002 AUMF is not needed for any ongoing military operations, there is no reason at all to leave it in place,” committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said, referring to the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). “I intend to mark up legislation in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming weeks to repeal it.”

Repealing the 2002 AUMF, he added, “absolutely should not be a problem to pass.”

Meeks was speaking at a news conference alongside several other House Democrats urging congressional action to repeal decades-old war authorizations and craft a more narrow AUMF.

The House voted last year to repeal the 2002 AUMF, but it was never taken up by the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Republicans.

But new momentum is building toward reining in existing war authorizations after President Biden ordered an airstrike on Iran-backed militia in Syria last month in retaliation for militia attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The Biden administration cited as its legal justification for the strike his constitutional authority to defend U.S. personnel, not an AUMF. But the strike has still sparked renewed efforts by lawmakers to repeal and replace existing AUMFs.

Last week, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing a bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, which authorized the Gulf War and Iraq War, respectively.

The Trump administration in part cited the 2002 AUMF in its legal justification for the 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The 2002 authorization has also occasionally been cited to bolster legal arguments in the fight against ISIS, though the main authorization cited for that war has been the 2001 AUMF.

More elusive than repealing the 1991 and 2002 authorizations is replacing the 2001 AUMF, which authorized military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but has since been used to justify military action in several countries against disparate terrorist groups.

The White House last week signaled it was willing to work with Congress on crafting a more narrow war authorization.

But while there is bipartisan agreement the 2001 AUMF is outdated, past congressional efforts on a replacement have all stalled amid partisan fights over the details, including whether to impose limits on time, geography and types of forces.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who was the only lawmaker to vote against the 2001 AUMF, said Friday she has been in conversations with the White House on the issue.

“My sense is that they want to work collaboratively with us in Congress to help shape whatever decisions we make to move forward,” she said at the news conference. “No specifics in terms of the language or the form or the shape of any repeal measures. But they definitely have indicated that they would like to work with us to make sure that we’re all on the same page as we move forward, and they are committed to doing this.”

The Democrats at the news conference — which also included House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.), Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (Mass.) and Rep. Anthony Brown (Md.) — backed a replacement AUMF that sunsets after a certain amount of time and specifies places and groups it applies to.

Meeks, whose committee has jurisdiction over AUMFs, acknowledged repealing and replacing the 2001 authorization “is going to be a little more challenging” than repealing the 2002 one, but said he is “committed to working towards an updated authority that is limited to reflect the threats we face today, providing a focused mission and objectives, while ensuring it will not be misused in the future.”

The lawmakers also indicated they are hopeful their efforts will be successful where past efforts failed because of Biden’s long history in the Senate.

“One of the things that I think that we have to our advantage is that Joe Biden himself for over 30 years was a member of the Senate and a former member, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and understands that the responsibility belongs here in Congress, and that we’ve got to work it out together,” Meeks said.

Tags 2002 AUMF Adam Schiff Anthony Brown authorization for use of military force Barbara Lee Gregory Meeks Joe Biden Tim Kaine Todd Young

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