US President Biden signals support for bill to repeal authorizations for use of military force against Iraq

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Statement.
Image: Executive Office of the President.

On March 16, US President Joe Biden signaled his support for a US Senate bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq.

According to Biden, expressing his views in a Statement of Administration Policy, the bill, S. 316, will have "no impact" on ongoing military actions, as none "rely primarily on the 2002 AUMF."

Truthout expects the Senate to vote on S. 316 in about the next week.

If enacted, S. 316 would end presidents' use of the 2002 AUMF as justification for military actions within and outside of Iraq; Truthout said it would be a "symbolic end" to US military actions against Iraq.

The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs originally authorized the Gulf and Iraq Wars, respectively.

Multiple US presidents have used the 2002 AUMF as part of the justification for US military actions in Syria.

On June 17, 2021, the US House of Representatives approved a repeal of the 2002 AUMF, but that bill did not pass the Senate. Democratic US Representative Gregory Meeks said then: "Repeal is crucial because the executive branch has a history of stretching the 2002 AUMF's legal authority."

A resolution to remove all US troops from Syria failed the House on March 8.

S. 316 was introduced on February 9 and has 45 cosponsors; it cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 13–8 vote on March 8.

Senator Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, commented to Insider: "The world continues to be a troubled place, and I don't want to remove any of the authorities that have been, or may be, relied upon to defend our interests."

Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, explained to Insider: "I don't want to do anything that reduces the President's ability to kill somebody like Soleimani," referring to the US' 2020 killing of Qasem Soleimani, then the top general in Iran.

US Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, and Bridget Moix, the Quaker nonprofit Friends Committee on National Legislation's general secretary, said in a CNN editorial on Saturday: "[B]y allowing the authorization to remain on the books, lawmakers in Congress are also abdicating a core constitutional responsibility. Our nation’s founders vested Congress with the sole power to decide when and where our country goes to war, and this power was granted for good reason: They knew that in a democratic system of checks and balances, no one person should have unilateral say over matters of war and peace."

Lee was the sole "no" vote in Congress on the 2001 AUMF authorizing military action in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.