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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 LeeOvernight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal Democratic Party leaders urge Biden to rejoin Iran deal, lift Trump's 'bad-faith sanctions' Shining a light on COINTELPRO's dangerous legacy 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: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (Colo.) and Peter MeijerPeter MeijerRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost GOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy University of Michigan regent, who chairs state GOP, censured over 'witches' comment MORE (Mich.), voted with Democrats in support of the bill.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksColombia's protests are threat, test for US Pressure increases for US to send vaccines to Latin America Liberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges MORE (D-N.Y.) argued the AUMF is outdated.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 BidenCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Manchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals 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 KaineManchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package MORE (D-Va.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate to vote on bill aimed at countering China's influence this month House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections 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 McCaulSenate Intelligence panel working on legislation around mandatory cyber breach notification McCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs Republican, Democratic lawmakers urge fully funding US assistance to Israel 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.