(Bloomberg) -- The Senate repealed two authorizations for the use of force against Iraq after a years-long push by critics who said they had been used to justify military action long after the war was over.
Senators voted 66-30 to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Force, or AUMFs. Final repeal will still require agreement from the Republican-led House, where some lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the push.
The move was part of an effort to get Congress “to take seriously the powers that we should be exercising on war, peace and diplomacy that we’ve so often abdicated,” Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and cosponsor of the repeal bill, said in an interview.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said he hopes the vote signals a shift away from “war without accountability.”
“I think the president is fully authorized to respond in real time to the security needs of the nation,” Hawley said. “But that’s not what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq for 20-plus years.”
Successive administrations used the Iraq authorizations to justify strikes well after the Iraq war that began with invasion in 2003 had wound down. The Trump administration, for example, used the 2002 authorization to justify military operations like the airstrike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
The Biden administration reiterated its support on the current Senate measure March 16 and backed previous efforts to repeal the 2002 AUMF when Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced a similar measure in 2021.
The House will need to vote on a companion bill for the AUMFs to be lifted. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters in a briefing last week that a similar measure in the House “has a good chance of getting through committee and getting to the floor.”
Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hopes to garner bipartisan support for the measure in the House.
“It’s not something that any president or executive branch should have without consultation and the vote of Congress,” Meeks said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s been absent from the Senate floor while recovering from a fall, said he opposed the repeal.
“Our enemies in Iran who have spent two decades targeting and killing Americans in the Middle East would be delighted to see America dial down our military presence, authorities, and activities in Iraq,” McConnell said in a statement.
Lawmakers like Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, a veteran deployed to Iraq and Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services committee, have criticized U.S. involvement in a war.
Congress “gave a blank check so that we wouldn’t have to have the tough political debates in Washington,” Moulton said on Bloomberg Radio’s Sound On March 17. “You’re worried about a tough political debate? Try being worried about coming home to your family because you’re not sure you’re going to survive the night.”
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