Today, members of the House and Senate rolled out legislation to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (2002 Iraq AUMF), a key step in reasserting congressional authority over matters of war. The legislation was led by Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN) in the Senate and Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Chip Roy (TX-21), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Tom Cole (OK-4) in the House.
The new bills mirror legislation from the last Congress, which garnered strong bipartisan support. Sens. Kaine and Young’s S.J. Res. 10 accumulated 51 cosponsors, including 11 Republicans. In the House, Rep. Lee’s bill to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF (H.R. 256) passed the House floor by a vote of 268-161, with dozens of Republicans voting in favor of repeal. The FCNL network was instrumental in building this support, thanks to thousands of letters to Congress and numerous constituent-led lobby visits.
This outdated and unnecessary war authorization should be taken off the books, both as an act of constitutional hygiene and to prevent its future misuse.
Despite changes to the composition of Congress following last November’s midterm elections, there remain bipartisan, bicameral majorities that support repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF. These majorities recognize that this outdated and unnecessary war authorization should be taken off the books, both as an act of constitutional hygiene, (Article I requires that Congress – not the president – “declare war”) and to prevent its future misuse.
The 2002 Iraq AUMF was originally passed to greenlight the George W. Bush administration’s intervention against Saddam Hussein’s regime – an intervention based on inaccurate evidence of his regime’s efforts to create weapons of mass destruction. The 20th anniversary of this devastating war, which killed over 126,000 civilians and over 4,500 U.S. servicemembers, is quickly approaching on March 20. So too is the 12th anniversary of the declared end of U.S. military operations in Iraq.
After all this time, it’s clear that the 2002 Iraq AUMF is outdated. No current U.S. operations rely on it for legal authority. It’s also ripe for abuse – In 2020, Trump administration lawyers argued that the 2002 Iraq AUMF provided a legal basis for the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The Biden administration has confirmed its obsolescence and publicly supported repeal,but that is no guarantee that a future administration won’t abuse it again.
Real progress has been made in reasserting Congress’s role in U.S. military operations. The two repeal bills that were introduced today bring with them a strong group of bipartisan cosponsors, adding to the momentum to finally repeal this zombie AUMF.
Senate Majority Leader Schumer has promised a Senate floor vote on 2002 AUMF repeal, and it’s crucial that he keeps his word. Only through sustained action will repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF come to pass. Urge your senators and representatives to cosponsor these bills to repeal this outdated and dangerous AUMF. Making our voices heard now can make repeal a reality.