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Senate advances Iraq war authorization repeal as Biden signals his support

U.S. President Joe Biden discusses his plan to lower prescription drug costs, at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., March 15, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis

(CNN) — The Senate voted Thursday to advance a bill repealing two Iraq war power acts as lawmakers work to reassert their authority in military intervention abroad.

A final vote on the bill is expected early next week.

The 68-27 vote Thursday was largely bipartisan, and the bill has 12 Republican co-sponsors.

The White House said earlier Thursday it supports the measure, which would repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of force in Iraq. The move would mark a formal conclusion to the conflicts, and a symbolic reassertion of Congress’ ability to declare war.

The measures ending the Gulf and Iraq Wars were advanced last week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Lawmakers have worked without success in recent years to repeal the AUMFs — authorization for use of military force — that gave the US president broad powers to conduct military operations without approval from Congress.

The 2002 AUMF has been used by successive presidents for military operations beyond its original scope.

Former President Barack Obama used the 2002 measure to justify airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Former President Donald Trump cited that AUMF when authorizing the strike that took out Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

In its statement, the White House said repealing the measure would “have no impact on current US military operations and would support this Administration’s commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners.”

“President Biden remains committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats,” the White House statement said. “Toward that end, the Administration will ensure that 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.”

Speaking Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the Senate to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorization of Military Use of Force.

“I hope this year, on the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, both chambers will finally speak in one voice and send the AUMF repeal to the president’s desk,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Schumer said repealing the AUMF is broadly bipartisan, but that there may be a number of amendments on the bill.

“I’m glad that repealing these AUMF has been a genuinely bipartisan effort. I expect we’ll have a number of amendment votes on the floor once the amendment is before us,” he said.

He argued repealing the AUMF would improve the US relationship with Iraq.

“Repealing this AUMF will in any way not hinder our national defense,” Schumer said. “In fact, the repeal is an important step in strengthening our relationship with Iraq.”

A group of lawmakers in Congress has tried unsuccessfully across multiple presidential administrations to repeal the Iraq AUMF, as well as make changes to the 2001 war authorization that was passed three days following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who co-authored the repeal with GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, has argued that Congress should first repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, and then look to rewrite the 2001 authorization, which authorized US operations against terrorism around the world.

The White House also backed a 2021 bill to repeal the Iraq AUMF that passed with the support of 49 Republicans. But the measure ultimately did not get a vote in the Senate amid opposition from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

If the Senate approves the latest resolution to repeal the Iraq AUMF, it’s not yet clear whether the Republican-led House will take up the measure, where the Republican conference includes a mix of defense hawks opposed to curtailing presidential war powers with a more-isolationist wing that would favor repealing the Iraq war authorization.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.