The House is voting this week on a bill to repeal the 2002 US war authorization in Iraq, with Democrats hopeful that the White House’s backing will give them newfound momentum to finally revoke the nearly 20-year-old authorization.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget on Monday issued a statement supporting the House’s legislation, a move that’s likely to boost the prospects that the Senate will also take action to repeal the authorization for use of military force, which was passed in the months before the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003.
The House will vote on the rule for the legislation Monday evening ahead of the final vote, which is expected to occur on Thursday.
The Biden administration said in a statement of administration policy Monday that it supports the House’s legislation because “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.”
The House’s legislation to repeal the Iraq war authorization is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who was the only member of Congress to oppose the sweeping 2001 war authorization that was passed three days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Both the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations have been cited by the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations to fight terrorism around the globe, including groups like ISIS that didn’t exist when the authorizations were signed into law.
Lee and others who support curbing the executive branch’s war powers ultimately want to replace the legal authorities in the 2001 authorization for use of military force, which have been used to fight terrorism across the globe for nearly two decades, with a more targeted war authorization. But they view a repeal of the Iraq 2002 war authorization as an important first step.
Last year, the House also voted to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization, with most Democrats and a handful of Republicans in favor. But the measure was not taken up in the Senate and it was opposed by the Trump administration. Sens. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, have introduced similar bills to repeal both the 2002 Iraq authorization and the 1991 authorization from the first Gulf War.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told CNN on Monday he is planning to take up the legislation from Young and Kaine to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization in his committee next week, paving the way for it to move to the Senate floor.
Kaine said in a statement that the White House’s support of the House bill is “an important first step in working together with the Administration on war power issues.”
Kaine, who unsuccessfully pushed in 2014 to update the war authorizations after the Obama administration sent troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, has previously said he wants to update the 2001 war authorization by September, marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. That effort is more complicated, however.
Menendez said he and Kaine have been speaking with national security adviser Jake Sullivan about how to replace the 2001 war authorization, though he described those conversations as in the early stages.
“We are in the midst of putting a working group together to look at what replacement would look like,” Menendez said. “I don’t know that we can ever get there, but the good news is that they are willing to work with us to see if we can, whereas in the past all we’ve ever heard is no, no, no.”
The White House alluded to that push in its statement Monday, saying it would work with Congress to revise other war authorizations while asserting that the executive branch needed to maintain its authority to act militarily.
“In working with the Congress on repealing and replacing other existing authorizations of military force, the Administration seeks to ensure that the Congress has a clear and thorough understanding of the effect of any such action and of the threats facing U.S. forces, personnel, and interests around the world,” the White House said. “As the Administration works with the Congress to reform AUMFs, it will be critical to maintain the clear authority to address threats to the United States’ national interests with appropriately decisive and effective military action.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated when the House will vote on the repeal of the 2002 US war authorization in Iraq. The House is voting on a procedural step Monday and the final vote is expected later this week.