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On September 20, 2023, a bipartisan group of representatives sent a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) calling on him to fulfill his promise to bring a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Against Iraq to the House floor. 

More than 20 years after its passage, the 2002 AUMF continues to offer a dangerous avenue for the use of military force.

In the letter,  Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-12), Chip Roy (TX-21), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), Warren Davidson (OH-8), Nancy Mace (SC-1), and Jim McGovern (MA-2) expressed appreciation for McCarthy’s “commitment to act to reclaim the founders’ intended role for [Congress] on matters of war and peace.” 

The group then urged the speaker to hold a vote on S. 316, the bipartisan repeal bill from Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN) that passed the Senate in a 66-30 vote this past March. “Scheduling a vote in September on S. 316,” the group wrote, “represents the fastest path to delivering this legislation to the President’s desk.” President Biden would almost certainly sign the bill into law, having given official support to repealing the Iraq War AUMF earlier this year.

More than 20 years after its passage and 12 years since the conclusion of the Iraq War, the 2002 AUMF continues to offer a dangerous avenue for the use of military force. Four presidents, on both sides of the aisle, have interpreted it far beyond original congressional intent, with the most egregious example being the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, which brought the United States and Iran perilously close to war. 

The House lawmakers sent their letter as the House Foreign Affairs Committee is gearing up to hold a hearing on September 28 to discuss not just the repeal of the 2002 Iraq AUMF, but also of the 2001 AUMF that Congress passed three days after the 9/11 attacks. The 2001 AUMF has been utilized since its passage to massively expand U.S. military force in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa without Congressional approval. This hearing represents an important step towards the repeal of the 2001 AUMF and the return of power to Congress regarding decisions on war and peace.

Expanded discussion of U.S. war powers should not come at the expense of repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF.

Speaking at a press conference organized by Secure Families Initiative, which coincided with the letter’s release, Rep. Barbara Lee said, “These [AUMFs] have been used time and time again by successive presidents to wage war well beyond the scope of what Congress originally intended, and to use military force against a continuously expanding list of adversaries.”

The letter made clear that the expanded discussion of U.S. war powers should not come at the expense of repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF. “While this conversation proceeds,” the letter said, “it cannot be allowed to delay the repeal of other outdated AUMFs.”

It is of the utmost importance that Speaker McCarthy heed his own promise and the request of his colleagues to bring S. 316 to a vote in order to finally repeal the 2002 AUMF once and for all. As this important progress towards returning war powers to Congress continues, FCNL remains a steadfast advocate for the repeal of outdated and overbroad AUMFs and all related work to bring an end to our forever wars.

Afreen Minai

Afreen Minai

Program Assistant for Militarism and Human Rights (2023-2024)

Afreen Minai is the program assistant for FCNL’s Militarism and Human Rights program. As program assistant she lobbies to reduce Pentagon spending, reallocate war powers to Congress, and end U.S. militarism abroad.