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Following two years of sustained advocacy by FCNL’s professional lobbyists and Advocacy Teams around the country, a congressional committee approved a bill to repeal a dangerous, outdated war authorization that has been used to justify military actions never approved by Congress.

This is the first time senators have voted on repealing these AUMFs, and if the measure passes the full Senate, it will be the first time in 50 years that both houses have voted to repeal an AUMF.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed S.J.Res. 10 by a bipartisan vote of 14-8, with Republican Sens. Todd Young (IN), Rand Paul (KY), and Rob Portman (OH) joining all committee Democrats in favor. Its passage comes nearly two months after the House voted overwhelmingly on a bipartisan basis to repeal the 2002 Iraq War Authorization, an effort championed by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) for the past two decades.

S.J.Res. 10, authored by Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN), would repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (2002 Iraq AUMF), as well as the 1991 law that authorized the Gulf War. This is the first time senators have voted on repealing these AUMFs, and if the measure passes the full Senate, it will be the first time in 50 years that both houses have voted to repeal an AUMF.

Congress passed the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs to authorize the Iraq War against Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Persian Gulf War, respectively. These conflicts are long over, and it is unnecessary to retain the AUMFs that authorized them. Indeed, the irrelevance of the 1991 Gulf War AUMF is virtually undisputed and the White House, the Department of Defense, and the State Department all agree that the 2002 AUMF is not needed for current military operations. However, it remains susceptible to abuse and was used by President Donald Trump to justify the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani.

Even the Biden administration agrees that the 2002 AUMF should be removed from the books. During an August 2 committee hearing, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman explicitly stated that the 2002 Iraq AUMF hasn’t just outlived its usefulness, but it “should be repealed.” Her fellow witnesses—State Department Acting Legal Adviser Richard Visek and Defense Department General Counsel Caroline Krass—echoed the sentiment. They repeatedly expressed that the State and Defense departments support repeal and agree with the White House’s assessment that the 2002 Iraq AUMF is not needed to carry out any ongoing military activities or to protect against attacks on U.S. personnel in the region.

Congress has abdicated its war powers to the executive branch for far too long, and repealing the 2002 AUMF is a critical first step toward taking those powers back.

Still, several lawmakers attempted to use this opportunity to threaten military action against Iran. When the committee considered the bill on August 3, Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Bill Hagerty (TN) offered amendments that would have essentially authorized war with Iran. Thankfully, the committee swiftly rejected these irrelevant and dangerous proposals, which would have further relinquished Congress’s constitutional war powers.

As Chairman Bob Menendez (NJ) put it, “The 2002 AUMF is not the answer to any threat that we are facing today. And if other existing authorities are insufficient to address those threats, I would expect the administration to come to Congress to seek a new AUMF.”

Congress has abdicated its war powers to the executive branch for far too long, and repealing the 2002 AUMF is a critical first step toward taking those powers back.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has reiterated his support for the measure and stated that he intends to bring it to the Senate floor this year. It is thus very possible repeal will make its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature and become law. With the help of FCNL’s Advocacy Teams, we will focus our lobbying on the senators who have not yet indicated their support for S.J.Res. 10 to ensure we have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

Julia Gledhill

Julia Gledhill

Program Associate, Militarism & Human Rights
Julia Gledhill is the program associate for militarism and human rights. She advocates for a U.S. foreign policy centered on diplomacy and human security.

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