House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization as Senate prepares to take action

Key Points
  • The House passed a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq.
  • The Senate plans to vote on legislation to revoke the war authorization later this year, and President Joe Biden supports the move.
  • Congress is trying to rein in presidential discretion to take military action, nearly a decade after the Iraq War ended.
U.S. President George W. Bush (L), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2002
Joyce Naltchayan | AFP | Getty Images

The House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq as Congress moves to rein in presidential discretion on using military force.

The chamber passed the measure by a 268-161 margin. Forty-nine Republicans joined all but one Democrat in supporting it.

The bill heads to the Senate, where the GOP will be split over whether to support it. The chamber's Foreign Relations Committee plans to move forward next week with its own plan to revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

President Joe Biden supports the House bill to repeal the Iraq War authorization. His Office of Management and Budget said this week that "the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations."

Lawmakers from both parties have worried that leaving the authorization in place will give presidents a legal backstop to justify unrelated military strikes. The Iraq War ended nearly a decade ago.

The House voted in January 2020 to repeal the measure after the U.S. launched an airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The Senate, then held by Republicans, did not pass the bill. The Trump administration cited the authorization measure as the legal basis for the airstrike.

(R) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hold a news conference critical at the U.S. Capitol October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., led the legislation the House passed Thursday. A longtime antiwar advocate, Lee was the only House member to vote against the 2001 war authorization in Afghanistan.

"This authority remains on the books, vulnerable to misuse because the Congress has not acted to remove it," Lee said on the House floor Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday he wants to hold a vote on revoking the Iraq authorization this year. He said scrapping the authorization will "eliminate the danger of a future administration reaching back into the legal dustbin to use it as a justification for military adventurism." 

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Thursday he would oppose repealing the war authorization despite some support for doing so within his caucus.

U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force-Iraq, man a defensive position at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, December 31, 2019.
U.S. Army | Reuters

"The fact of the matter is, the legal and practical application of the 2002 AUMF extends far beyond the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime," he said. "Tossing it aside without answering real questions about our own efforts in the region is reckless."

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., have led the effort to revoke the measure in the Senate.

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