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 LeeOvernight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight House panel advances 6B Pentagon bill on party-line vote House panel votes to repeal 2001, 2002 war authorizations 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: Biden: Social media platforms 'killing people' | Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push | Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes MORE (Colo.) and Peter MeijerPeter MeijerMichigan GOP executive director quits under pressure from Trump allies Cheney, Kinzinger are sole GOP votes for Jan. 6 select committee White House backs repeal of 2002 war authorization MORE (Mich.), voted with Democrats in support of the bill.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksUS delegation departs Haiti after reports of gunshots at ex-president's funeral Biden announces delegation to attend Haitian president's funeral Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (D-N.Y.) argued the AUMF is outdated.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 BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' 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 KaineSenate GOP likely to nix plan Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Manchin signals he'll be team player on spending deal MORE (D-Va.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Paying attention to critical infrastructure can combat sophisticated cyberattacks Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up 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.

“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 McCaulAfghan evacuees to be housed at Virginia base Passport backlog threatens to upend travel plans for millions of Americans US lawmakers express shock at Haitian president's assassination 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.