On Wednesday, the Senate voted to repeal the military force authorizations for the Iraq and Persian Gulf wars — with the decision coming decades after the authorizations were instituted.
Every Senate Democrat voted in favor of the measure, with 18 Republicans joining in — leading to a final vote of 66-30, with four members not voting, according to C-SPAN.
66-30: Senate votes to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs against Iraq. The bipartisan bill by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) now heads to the House. pic.twitter.com/KEdbzh8iUW
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) March 29, 2023
The measure targets the 1991 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed former President George H.W. Bush to green light military force in the Gulf War. The measure also repealed the 2002 AUMF, which allowed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq under former President George W. Bush.
Before becoming law, the bill will need the approval of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and the signature of President Joe Biden.
In a statement earlier this month, the White House announced that Biden supports the measure and noted that repealing the authorizations “would have no impact on current U.S. military operations and would support this Administration’s commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners.”
The measure was reintroduced earlier this year by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN), who released a joint statement describing the bill as part of an effort to “prevent the future misuse of the expired Gulf and Iraq War authorizations and strengthen Congressional oversight over war powers.”
Kaine and Young also emphasized the fact that repealing the authorizations would not have any impact on the United States’ ongoing operations to counter ISIS.
Pro-establishment Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who did not vote on Wednesday due to an injury, spoke out in opposition to the measure. The RINO senator is currently at home following a fall that caused a concussion and minor rib fracture, for which he has already undergone physical therapy at an inpatient center.
“I am opposed to Congress sunsetting any military force authorizations in the Middle East,” McConnell said in the statement. “Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us. And when we deploy our service members in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can.”
According to the Associated Press, these war authorizations being repealed have rarely been used as the basis for presidential action.
Meanwhile, proponents of the bill say that it represents a significant step in reasserting Congress’ authority and reining in the president’s war powers — as the Constitution states that Congress is the only government body that can declare war, but the authorizations gave some of that power to the president, which critics say was unconstitutional.
“It’s been long past time for Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty in matters of where, when, and why we send American troops to sacrifice in defense of our country,” Russ Duerstine, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, said in a statement. “Repealing these AUMFs also removes the possibility that they might be abused in the future to take America to war again without congressional approval.”