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Bipartisan Senate majority repeals authorizations for Iraq wars

It was 20 years ago this month when the U.S. began the war in Iraq. Now, a bipartisan Senate majority has agreed to repeal the authorization for the war.


It wasn’t easy, and the measure’s future remains uncertain, but a sizable, bipartisan majority in the Senate today took a big step toward repealing previous authorizations for the wars in Iraq. NBC News reported:

The Senate advanced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to repeal the authorizations Congress passed in 1991 and 2002 for the U.S. wars in Iraq. The bill, passed in a 66-30 vote, would repeal the authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, for the Gulf War in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush and for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush.

“Twenty years after the start of the Iraq War, the Senate finally, finally, finally declares today the time has come to repeal the legal authorities that began that war in the first place,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during floor remarks this morning. “This is bipartisan, and that’s one of the beauties of this. Democrats and Republicans join to say it has been long enough, the Iraq War has long been over, these authorizations for use of force against Iraq are no longer necessary for our security.”

The New York Democrat added, “Make no mistake: this vote repealing the Iraq War powers is one for the history books.”

Revisiting our earlier coverage, it’s fair to see much of the resolution as symbolic. After all, the United States is not at war in Iraq, and withdrawing the years-old resolutions would not have a practical impact on the country’s military operations or broader national security strategy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. As proponents have argued persuasively, the formal demise of these resolutions would both help Congress reestablish its war-powers relevance and prevent future abuses.

What’s more, the effort got a boost last week when the White House issued a statement of administration policy, emphasizing President Joe Biden’s “longstanding commitment to replacing outdated authorizations for the use of military force.”

At this point, I suspect some of you are feeling some skepticism. “Sure, this is all very nice,” you’re thinking. “But with a far-right House Republican majority in place, it won’t much matter what the Senate passes.”

While I appreciate the low expectations, failure is not assumed. For one thing, some of the GOP senators who support this effort believe its odds will improve with a lopsided vote in the upper chamber, and today’s 66-to-30 vote was a step in that direction.

For another, there are plenty of notable voices on the right who believe this effort has real value. In fact, The Washington Post reported that Heritage Action, an influential conservative organization, not only endorsed the bipartisan measure, it also urged House Republican leaders to follow the Senate’s lead.

In other words, the repeal resolution has a chance. Watch this space.

Postscript: In case readers are curious, if the war authorizations are repealed, this will be the first time Congress has taken such a step since 1971, when lawmakers agreed to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that cleared the way for the war in Vietnam.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.