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House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization

House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization
© Stefani Reynolds

A House panel advanced a bill Thursday that would repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 28-19 largely along party lines to approve the bill from Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBiden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees 10 Democrats join NAACP lawsuit against Trump White House delays release of budget plan MORE (D-Calif.) repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), advancing it to the House floor.

Two Republicans, Reps. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Supreme Court rules Facebook text alerts not akin to robocalls | Republicans press Google, Apple, Amazon on Parler removals | Texas Senate blocks social media platforms from banning users based on politics Republicans press Google, Apple, Amazon on Parler removals House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization MORE (Colo.) and Peter MeijerPeter MeijerUniversity of Michigan regent, who chairs state GOP, censured over 'witches' comment Michigan GOP leader apologizes after 'assassination' remark Michigan GOP leader mentions 'assassination' in response to question about anti-Trump Republicans MORE (Mich.), voted with Democrats in support of the bill.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksIran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization Bipartisan House bill would repeal decades-old war authorizations MORE (D-N.Y.) argued the AUMF is outdated. 

“Iraq is a security partner of the United States. Saddam Hussein is long gone. No current operations depend on 2002 AUMF,” Meek said. 

The House voted last year and in 2019 to repeal the 2002 AUMF, but the repeal was never taken up by the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

Efforts to repeal it were revived this year amid a push to rein in presidential war powers after President BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE ordered an airstrike on Iran-backed militias 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.

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In addition to movement in the House, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization MORE (D-Va.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Senate Republicans voice opposition to Biden on Iran Biden infrastructure proposal prioritizes funds for emerging technologies MORE (R-Ind.) recently introduced a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF, as well as the 1991 authorization for the Gulf War.

The 2002 AUMF allows military action to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” 

The Trump administration cited the 2002 AUMF in part for its legal justification in 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.

At Thursday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, Republicans argued repealing the 2002 AUMF would hamstring the U.S. counterterrorism missions, saying it should not be taken off the books until a replacement for the 2001 AUMF is agreed to.

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“I think we all agree we've abdicated our Article I responsibilities, and we need to look at updating these very old authorized uses of military force,” said Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization MORE (R-Texas), the committee ranking member.

“But I believe we must do this as part of a comprehensive, updated replacement to provide clear authorities against the terrorists who still plot to kill Americans at home and abroad.”

Democrats argued there was no reason to wait on taking action on the 2002 authorization.

“I'm committed to replacing the 2001 AUMF with a more focused authority, but much more work is needed on that effort,” Meeks said. “So in the meantime, there is absolutely no reason to delay the 2002 AUMF simply because we don't have an agreement yet on the 2001 AUMF, which the 2001 is entirely a different authority for entirely a different war.”

The 2001 AUMF is likely to pose the most difficulty in renewed congressional efforts on war powers.

The 2001 AUMF authorized military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but has since been used to justify military action in more than a dozen countries against disparate terrorist groups.

The White House has signaled it is willing to work with Congress on crafting a more narrow war authorization.

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.