Senate Votes to Repeal Measure That Green-Lit Iraq War

It seeks to end 20 years of authorization for US presidents to use force in Iraq
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2023 1:46 PM CDT
Senate Votes to Repeal Measure That Green-Lit Iraq War
The Senate voted to repeal the 2002 measure that green-lighted that March 2003 invasion of Iraq. The measure would end more than 20 years of authorization for US presidents to use force in that country and return those war powers to Congress.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Senate voted Wednesday to repeal the resolution that gave a green light for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an effort to end more than 20 years of authorization for US presidents to use force in that country and return those war powers to Congress, reports the AP. The measure would repeal the 1991 authorization that sanctioned the US-led Gulf War as well. What you need to know:

  • Background. The October 2002 votes to give George W. Bush broad authority for the Iraq invasion were a defining moment for many members of Congress as the country debated whether a military strike was warranted. The US was already at war in Afghanistan, and the Bush administration had drummed up support among members of Congress and the American public for invading Iraq by promoting what turned out to be false intelligence alleging Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Then-Sen. Joe Biden voted in favor.
  • Background II. Some lawmakers fear the Iraq war powers could be used for purposes Congress never intended. President Trump’s administration cited the 2002 Iraq war resolution as part of its legal justification for a 2020 US drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani, but the two war powers resolutions have otherwise rarely been used as the basis for any presidential action. A separate 2001 authorization for the global war on terror would remain in place under the bill, which President Biden has said he will support.

  • Wednesday's vote. Senators voted 66-30 in favor of repeal. If passed by the House, the repeal would not be expected to affect any current military deployments. But lawmakers in both parties are increasingly seeking to claw back congressional powers over US military strikes and deployments.
  • Supporters. Supporters, including almost 20 Republican senators, say the repeal is crucial to prevent future abuses and to reinforce that Iraq is now a strategic partner of the United States.
  • Critics. Opponents have raised concerns about recent attacks against US troops in Syria, including a recent drone strike and rocket attack that Iranian-backed militants are thought to have been behind. Biden and his administration have argued that the repeal would not affect any response to Iran. American troops are authorized to protect themselves and respond to attacks, including under Article 2 of the Constitution, which gives the president the authority to protect troops.
  • Prospects. The repeal’s future is less certain in the House, where 49 Republicans joined with Democrats in supporting a similar bill two years ago. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has suggested he is open to supporting a repeal even though he previously opposed it, but Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has indicated he would like to instead replace it with something else. It is unclear what that would be.
  • Congressional history. The New York Times reports that of the lawmakers who cast a vote for the 2002 Iraq war authorization, just 69 are still in Congress. Roughly half of them voted in favor of authorization. Today, all but 17 are in favor of repeal.
  • Implications. Should the repeal come to pass, "it would also be a crucial first step toward building momentum to tackle more significant and far more complicated endeavors," such as "replacing the authorization Congress passed in 2001 to start military operations against terrorist groups in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks," notes the Times.
(More Iraq war stories.)

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