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Two decades on, Senate rollback of Iraq invasion approval gets underway

President Biden has said he will sign the legislation, considered largely symbolic, that scraps a resolution from 2002 authorization military force.

WASHINGTON (CN) — More than 20 years after Congress voted to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Senate signaled Thursday afternoon that it is ready for an about-face and will vote on a bill that would roll back two military authorizations stretching back multiple decades.

The measure, introduced in February by Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine and co-signed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators, proposes to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which permitted the U.S. military invasion of Iraq under then-President George W. Bush. The bill would similarly scrap a 1991 military force resolution against Iraq that triggered the Gulf War.

To end debate on the bill and begin the voting process, the Senate voted 68-27 Thursday to invoke a congressional action on the legislation known as cloture. Twenty-seven Republicans voted against cloture, one of them being Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who voted in favor of the AUMF in 2002.

The upper chamber is scheduled to take a final vote on Kaine’s measure next week.

Repealing these authorizations would be a mostly symbolic gesture — no activity that the U.S. military conducts in Iraq today is based on legal permissions granted in either the 1991 or 2002 AUMF.

The bill’s supporters instead positioned it as a check on the president’s authority to commit troops to combat.

“Repealing the AUMF is a necessary step towards putting the final remnants of the Iraq War squarely behind us,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during floor remarks Thursday. “Every year we leave this AUMF on the book is another year a future administration can abuse it. Congress, the rightful dispenser of war powers, cannot allow this to continue.”

Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican and a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation, agreed with that interpretation. “Leaving these authorities on the books creates an opportunity for abuse by the executive branch and bypasses Congress on the most important issue we consider as a body, which is how and when to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way.”

Young also pushed back on what he said was a view among some lawmakers that repealing the military force authorities could impact the U.S. policy against Iran.

“I share the views of many of my colleagues on the need to counter Iran,” the senator said, “but reimagining a more-than-20 year-old authorization that was passed to combat a totally different enemy is not the way to do it.”

Kaine, meanwhile, remarked to his colleagues that his proposed legislation enjoys broad bipartisan report. “It’s a rare coalition,” he said, “and it speaks to how painfully evident it is that the repeal of these authorizations is long, long overdue.

“In the Biblical phrase," Kaine continued, "we’ve beaten the sword into a plowshare."

President Joe Biden has said he would sign the bill if both houses pass it. Biden has said he opposed the war in Iraq, although, during his time in the Senate, he voted in favor of the joint resolution.

The White House stressed that repealing the two military force authorizations would have no impact on the U.S. commitment to working alongside Baghdad. “This partnership, which includes cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces, continues at the invitation of the Government of Iraq in an advise, assist, and enable role," it said in a statement Thursday.

This is Congress’ second attempt in the last few years to roll back the two Iraq military authorities. An attempt to do away with both the 1991 and 2002 AUMF passed the House in 2021 but never saw a vote in the Senate.

October 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the Iraq AUMF, signed into law by then-President Bush on Oct. 16 of that year.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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