House panel votes to repeal 2001, 2002 war authorizations

House panel votes to repeal 2001, 2002 war authorizations
© Greg Nash

A House panel on Tuesday approved amendments to repeal the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations, the latest move in a push to rein in presidential war powers that has been gaining momentum in recent months.

The House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote both amendments from Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE (D-Calif.) to sunset the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) after eight months and to immediately repeal the 2002 AUMF.

The amendments were approved as the committee considered its fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill.

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The panel also approved Lee’s amendments the past couple years, but they did not survive negotiations with the Senate.

“It's time for us to restore the balance to this Constitution. Enough is enough. Congress needs to act,” Lee said during debate on her amendment to repeal the 2001 AUMF.

The latest approval comes amid a broader push in Congress for war powers reform.

Momentum on cleaning up the various war powers measures has been building since President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE launched airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria in February, with another burst of momentum following Biden’s second round of strikes on the militias last month.

Biden has cited his authority under Article II of the Constitution, not an AUMF, as his legal justification for the strikes. But the military actions have still stirred debate over the AUMFs.

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Last month, the House approved a stand alone bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF, which authorized the Iraq War. A couple weeks later, the chamber also approved bills to repeal the 1991 AUMF for the Gulf War and a 1957 resolution that provided broad authorization for military action in the Middle East.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also expected to consider in the coming weeks a bill to repeal the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs, following a closed-door briefing Monday requested by Republicans on what the effects of repealing the authorizations would be.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have been hoping to replace the 2001 AUMF with an updated authorization after the Biden administration said it was open to working with Congress on crafting a narrower measure.

The 2001 bill was passed in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to authorize military action against the perpetrators but has since been used to justify military action in more than a dozen countries against disparate terrorist groups.

Lawmakers in both parties have supported replacing the 2001 AUMF for years, but have been unable to agree on details such as whether to include limits on how long the authorization lasts, what countries it applies to or whether it allows for ground troops.

Republicans who opposed Tuesday’s amendments to repeal the 2001 and 2002 measures argued, as they have in the past, that Congress should not repeal the existing laws until an agreement is reached on replacing the 2001 law.

“I can think of few actions that would be more harmful than to repeal this critical counterterrorism authority without Congress first having passed a replacement that will be signed into law,” said Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. “Unfortunately, there continues to be considerable disagreement on the details and no credible prospect for immediate political consensus on these difficult and weighty constitutional matters.”