By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate committee backed legislation on Wednesday to repeal two authorizations for past wars in Iraq, paving the way for a possible vote in the full Senate before the 20th anniversary of the last invasion by American troops.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 to approve a bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs, against Iraq, the latest attempt to reassert Congress’ role in deciding to send troops into combat.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the full Senate could vote on the legislation in the next few weeks. That would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq.
Senator Tim Kaine, a leader of efforts to repeal old AUMFs, said it makes no sense to have the authorizations on the books.
“Iraq was an enemy in ’02,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “Increasingly, they are a security partner. We work with Iraq to defeat ISIS and continue to guard against terrorist activity.”
Lawmakers have been arguing for years that Congress has ceded too much authority to the president over whether troops should be sent into combat, by passing and then failing to repeal broad, open-ended war authorizations that presidents have then used for years to justify military action around the globe.
For example, Republican then-President Donald Trump said the 2002 AUMF provided legal authority for the 2020 killing in Iraq of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war.
The measure’s chances of becoming law were unclear. Despite support from members of both parties in both the Senate and House of Representatives, there is also significant opposition.
Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for a replacement, written in consultation with military commanders, before repealing existing AUMFs.
“Piecemeal repeal of those Iraq authorities is not a serious contribution to war powers reform,” McCaul said in a statement.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)