“This marks the first time in memory that a president has called for the repeal of a war authorization, a significant step towards ending the forever wars.”
Just ahead of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announcing a vote on repealing the Iraq war authorization later this year, the White House this week declared its support for legislation to end the 2002 measure—a development welcomed by Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups that have demanded an end to “endless wars.”
At issue is Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) H.R. 256, which would repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The repeal measure—whose supporters now include even right-wing groups like Americans for Prosperity—has 134 bipartisan co-sponsors. The House is set to vote on the bill Thursday.
In a statement of administrative policy released (pdf) Monday announcing support for H.R. 256, the Biden administration said that “the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.” The statement also declares President Joe Biden’s commitment to working “with the Congress on repealing and replacing other existing authorizations of military force.”
Lee called it “great news” that Biden “is on board with my legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF, which Congress will vote on this week.”
“This is a long overdue step toward ending our forever wars,” she tweeted.
— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) June 16, 2021
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) also welcomed the development as “big news.”
“This marks the first time in memory that a president has called for the repeal of a war authorization, a significant step towards ending the forever wars,” said Diana Ohlbaum, FCNL’s senior strategist and legislative director for foreign policy, in a statement.
“The 2002 Iraq AUMF authorized war against the Saddam Hussein regime. That war ended years ago, but the war authorization remains on the books, leaving it susceptible to abuse by any president,” Ohlbaum said. She cited as one example then-President Donald Trump’s use of it in January 2020 to justify the U.S. assassination of Iranian Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
On Wednesday, Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced support for repealing the 2002 authorization, saying on the Senate floor that it “no longer serves a vital purpose in our fight against violent extremists.”
“I strongly and fully support repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq,” he said. “It is my intention as majority leader to bring this matter to a floor vote this year.”
Kaine said in a statement that he was “grateful” to see the legislation moving forward.
“So much has changed since 1991 and 2002: Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone; the Gulf and Iraq Wars are over; and Iraq is now a close security partner who should not be labeled an enemy state. Foreign Relations Committee action on our AUMF repeal bill represents a bipartisan recognition of these truths,” added Kaine, “and a widespread desire to not keep old war authorizations on the books.”
Excited to see the Senate build on our momentum in the House to end forever wars.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 16, 2021
According to FCNL, the legislative movement comes down to dogged activism from the grassroots.
The “2002 Iraq AUMF repeal wasn’t on the radar of Congress for years,” the group tweeted. “Now, we’ve got a full House vote this week and a Senate committee mark-up next week. Advocates made this happen!”