Make your home page

Senate votes to repeal Iraq War power authorizations, 20 years after US invasion

The U.S. Capitol Building stands on April 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Senate voted Wednesday to repeal authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq, a significant moment as lawmakers aim to reassert authority in military intervention abroad.

The legislation now goes to the US House of Representatives for a vote. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has signaled support for it and said it would likely be brought to the floor. With bipartisan support for the repeal, the measure appears to have a good chance of passing the chambers, though it’s still unclear if lawmakers will try to amend it.

The vote comes on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

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

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been a strong supporter of the repeal, saying “there’s no justification anymore” for allowing these authorizations to stay on the books.

“Every year they remain place … is another year a future administration can abuse them to ensnare us in another conflict in the Middle East,” he argued, in remarks on the Senate floor last week as the chamber was debating the bill. “The American people don’t want that, they’re tired of endless wars in the Middle East.”

Many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, oppose repealing the war authorizations for use of force in Iraq, arguing they are not subject to abuse by presidents but give the White House flexibility to respond to threats around the world at a dangerous time.

“I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East. Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us,” McConnell said in a statement ahead of the vote. “And when we deploy our service members in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can.”

Wednesday’s historic vote took place amid a string of absences on both sides of the aisle in the Senate, most notably with McConnell still out, now working from home, as he continues to recover from a fall that resulted in a concussion at a DC hotel earlier this month.

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.”

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 McConnell.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.