On July 14, for the fourth time in as many years, the House voted to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (2002 Iraq AUMF). The move came as part of House floor consideration of the annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.
As part of a package deal, the House adopted an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) that would immediately repeal the decades-old law that authorized the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. Although this is not the first time the House has voted to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, we are hopeful that this time the Senate will follow suit.
In the lead up to the vote, former Obama administration National Security Council deputy legal advisor Tess Bridgeman singled out Rep. Lee’s amendment as one of several “easy ‘yes’ votes that could help restore Congress’ congressional authority over when to take the nation to war.” Bridgeman labeled repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF “simply long-overdue good war powers hygiene,” noting that it is “not relied on for any current U.S. operations but could be susceptible to abuse.”
After many years of incremental progress, Congress is closer than ever to reasserting its constitutional war powers and ensuring that the people’s branch, not the president, determines whether the United States goes to war.
Indeed, the 2002 law was recently subject to such abuse, when the Trump administration claimed it provided legal authority for the 2020 targeted killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The first time the House included a 2002 Iraq AUMF repeal provision in the NDAA was in 2019, when Rep. Lee successfully added the same amendment to the bill on the House floor. However, Trump administration officials reportedly stymied efforts to retain the repeal in the final NDAA.
What makes things different this year are two key factors: the momentum that has built to repeal this outdated and dangerous authorization and the Biden administration’s support for doing so.
FCNL’s grassroots Advocacy Teams have played a strong role in increasing bipartisan support for measures in both chambers of Congress to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF. Following their years of persistent advocacy, in 2021 the House passed Rep. Lee’s standalone bill, H.R. 256, by a vote of 268-161, including 49 Republicans. Prior to the vote on H.R. 256, the Biden administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy, with the unequivocal declaration, “The Administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF.”
In the Senate, support for a bipartisan bill from Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN) (S.J.Res. 10) continues to grow. The bill currently has 48 cosponsors, including 11 Republicans, and advanced through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2021 by a bipartisan vote of 14-8. Between those who have officially cosponsored and those who have committed to supporting it, we now have a filibuster-proof majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has promised a vote on the Senate floor.
Now, with the 2002 Iraq AUMF repeal included in the NDAA—a bill considered one of several “must-pass” annual legislative vehicles—Congress is on a firm path to finally revoking the 20-year-old law. We are grateful to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (WA-9) for his support and urge the Senate to hold a vote on a corresponding amendment during its consideration of the NDAA, currently expected in September.
After many years of incremental progress, Congress is closer than ever to reasserting its constitutional war powers and ensuring that the people’s branch, not the president, determines whether the United States goes to war. With the persistent, prophetic, and powerful grassroots advocacy of FCNL supporters around the country, years of small steps can turn into giant leaps in the effort to end forever war.