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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Democratically-run House, with the support of President Joe Biden, passed legislation on Thursday to revoke the 2002 military force authorization in Iraq on war-related matters, while critics feared militias or terrorist groups operating in operate in the region.
The repeal law was passed with an overwhelming majority with 268 votes to 161.
Proponents said the repeal would not affect US military operations around the world, but it could prevent current and future presidents from relying on it to conduct unrelated military actions. The White House says there are no ongoing military activities that rely solely on 2002 approval.
The 2002 authorization was directed against the Saddam Hussein regime and allowed the “necessary and appropriate” use of force to “defend US national security against the continuing threat from Iraq” and “all relevant Security Council resolutions to enforce Iraq ”.
“Repeal is critical as the executive has historically increased the legal authority of the AUMF from 2002,” said Gregory Meeks, Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It has already been used as a justification for military actions against units that had nothing to do with the Baath dictatorship of Saddam Hussein just because such units were operating in Iraq.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas said he agreed that the 2002 permit was out of date, but argued that Congress should not overturn it without also approving a replacement.
“We shouldn’t encourage a president to go alone without Article I approval from Congress,” McCaul said.
The repeal measures follow years of debate over whether Congress has ceded too much of its belligerent authority to the White House. Many lawmakers, especially Democrats, say that passing the 2002 approval or AUMF was a mistake, and some Republicans agree that authority should be taken off the books. Some lawmakers say the 2001 resolution to combat terrorism, passed after the 9/11 attacks, should also be reviewed.
California Democratic MP Barbara Lee, sponsor of the bill, said 87% of the current House of Representatives were not in Congress in 2002 and that the military force permit passed then bears no correlation to the threats the nation faces today .
“To date, our endless war has cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in a war that is far beyond what Congress conceived or intended,” Lee said.
The vote came a day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he intended to bring the repeal legislation to the Senate this year.
“The Iraq war has been over for almost a decade,” said Schumer. “The approval granted in 2002 will no longer be required in 2021.”
The White House said Biden is determined to work with Congress to update the permit with a “narrow and specific framework that is appropriate to ensure we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.”
Schumer said he wanted to make it clear that legislation to end the use of force in Iraq does not mean that the US will give up the country and the common fight against Islamic State. He said the move would eliminate the possibility of a future government “falling into the legal trash can to justify military adventure”.
As an example, he cited the Washington-led drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani in January 2020.
The Trump administration said Soleimani was planning a series of attacks that put many American troops and officials across the Middle East at risk. Then-National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told reporters that President Donald Trump was exercising America’s right to self-defense and that the attack was a fully approved act under the 2002 Military Force Authorization.
“There is no good reason to leave this legal authority in place if another ruthless commander-in-chief tries the same trick in the future,” said Schumer.
In the Senate, major lawmakers are working on a bill that will repeal not only the 2002 authorization, but also the 1991 authorization to use force in Iraq, which is still on the books. The 1991 authorization gave President George HW Bush the power to use force against Iraq to enforce a number of UN Security Council resolutions passed in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The Senate and House of Representatives would have to work out any differences in their bill and vote on an end product before it could go to Biden’s desk to sign a bill.
Ultimately, a law that ends the 2002 authorization needs 60 votes in an evenly distributed Senate to overcome procedural hurdles. Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., The senior Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said he was against efforts to end the approval.
“We used it to get Soleimani, and maybe there is another Soleimani,” Inhofe said.
McCaul said the time for the repeal efforts of the House of Representatives began after that strike.
“Democrats are playing politics with national security to spoil one of President Trump’s greatest national security achievements,” said McCaul.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., Said 2002 legislation gives the military the power to target Iran-backed militia groups that are “currently attacking Americans in Iraq.”
“This short-sighted, seemingly political effort to overturn authority without replacement sends the wrong message and will encourage Islamic terrorist groups and the world’s largest state-sponsored terrorist, Iran,” said Calvert.
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