House votes to repeal 1991, 1957 war authorizations
The House on Tuesday voted to repeal a pair of decades-old war authorizations related to the Middle East amid a broader debate over presidential war powers.
As part of a package of seven bills considered to be uncontroversial, the House voted 366-46 to repeal the 1991 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that greenlit the Gulf War in Iraq, as well as a 1957 resolution that provided broad authorization for military action in the Middle East to protect against “armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism.”
The “no” votes came entirely from Republicans.
The vote comes just under two weeks after the House voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF that authorized the Iraq War. It also comes days after President Biden ordered fresh airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-back militias that have reignited war powers debates among lawmakers.
Biden did not cite an AUMF as his legal authority for Sunday’s strikes, nor did he do so for similar strikes in February.
But proponents of repealing the aging war authorizations argue they must be taken off the books or else risk being abused by the executive branch.
“By not repealing an AUMF and allowing it to remain long after it has served this purpose, we open the door for future administrations of either party to abuse that authority and stretch the authorization far beyond its original purpose,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said Monday during floor debate on the bills approved Tuesday.
But unlike the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, which was a mostly partisan vote, repealing the 1991 and 1957 laws were seen as uncontroversial.
Both repeals were on the House’s “suspension” calendar, which is reserved for bills that can pass by voice vote or at least a two-thirds majority in a roll call vote.
“The specific point of this law was accomplished,” House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said of the 1991 AUMF. “Therefore there’s no reason to leave it on the books. It is, in that sense, very different from the 2002 Iraq AUMF.”
On the 1957 resolution, McCaul called it an “unused relic of the Cold War,” adding with a chuckle that he “wasn’t even born when this one was enacted — just barely though.”
Republicans argue repealing the 2002 law could hamstring counterterrorism missions, though the main authorization for those operations is the 2001 AUMF.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to consider a bill in July that would repeal both the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs.
The panel had originally been expected to consider the bill this month but delayed the markup at the request of Republicans, who demanded a briefing from the administration before voting on repealing the 2002 authorization.