After Repeal Passes House, 2002 Expansion of War Powers Could End

June 17, 2021Hannah Ray Lambert

An Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service convoy moves toward Mosul, Iraq, on Feb. 23, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne.

The US House of Representatives voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 Authorization For Use of Military Force (AUMF), the first step in what many lawmakers hope will be a larger effort to scale back presidential war powers.

“After nearly 20 years of fighting for this, we’re finally one step closer to ending forever wars,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., announced on Twitter. Lee sponsored the bill to repeal the nearly 20-year-old legislation, which authorized the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.   

The vote was 268-161 and fell largely along party lines. Rep. Elaine Luria was the only Democrat to vote against scrapping the authorization, and 49 Republican representatives voted in favor of repeal. 

Congress originally passed the AUMF to allow the military to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Since then, US presidents have used the AUMF to sustain a wide range of military actions, which critics say it was never meant to include. President Barack Obama said in 2014 he’d like to see the AUMF repealed, but nonetheless used it to justify airstrikes against ISIS and redeploy the military in Iraq. The Trump administration cited it as legal justification for the 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Soldiers run from one objective to next in Old Baqubah, Iraq, on April 2, 2007. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall.

Democrats, in particular, have criticized the Iraq resolution as being based on false intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, according to NBC.

The 2002 authorization followed the even broader 2001 AUMF, which permitted military action against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but has since been utilized to justify action in “more than a dozen countries against disparate terrorist groups,” The Hill reported. Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF and introduced a bill earlier this year to repeal that authorization as well.

The House voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF last session, but the effort stalled in a Senate that at the time was controlled by Republicans. Now that Democrats hold the majority, odds of repeal are more favorable, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will bring the legislation to a vote this year. 

The White House also issued a statement endorsing Lee’s bill, stating that President Joe Biden is “committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.”

Read Next: ‘I’ll Believe It When I See It’: 5 Afghan War Veterans React To Leaving Afghanistan

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

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