War Authorizations Repeal Bills Get Bipartisan Support

May 21, 2021 by Reece Nations
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Rachaelanne Woodward 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing)

WASHINGTON — The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday passed a pair of bills that would limit the president’s ability to expand military operations in the Middle East by repealing decades-old Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs.

Legislation that would repeal the 1991 AUMF against Iraq — in which Congress approved military action in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait — was unanimously approved by the committee. Another bill to repeal a Cold-War era AUMF, introduced jointly by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Peter Meijer, R-Mich., passed through the committee by voice vote. 

“As long as these authorizations remain on the books, the danger persists that the executive branch could inappropriately use them as legal justification to send American troops into harm’s way without seeking the current Congress’s approval,” Dan Grazier, military fellow at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight, said in a written statement. “Doing so would clearly violate the spirit of the Constitution’s war powers clause. The 1957 and 1991 authorizations have served their purpose and it is long past time to consign them to history. Representatives Spanberger, Gallagher, Golden, and Meijer should be commended for taking on this important work.” 

This course of action by lawmakers showcases Congress’ push to restore its “Constitutional responsibility,” Spanberger said in remarks before the committee. The authority granted to the executive branch by these and other AUMFs are “unneeded,” “unused,” and present the possibility of exploitation by future administrations, she said. 

If enacted, Congressional authorization for the Gulf and Iraq wars in addition to Cold War-era authorization of force in the Middle East would come to a formal end. Any further military action in the regions would require new and updated AUMFs approved by the legislature. 

“Repealing all outdated AUMFs is of utmost importance, as we continue our efforts to shift war-making powers back to Congress, where they belong. If troops are worth deploying, it is worthy of a fresh debate, and a vote, before a commitment,” Mary Kaszynski, director of Government Relations for VoteVets, said in a written statement. “What cannot be allowed to happen is that a president has a blank check to send troops all around the world, based on an authorization passed before many troops were even born. We’re proud to support these bills and urge the House to immediately pass them.” 

In January 2020, seven House representatives jointly authored an op-ed in The Washington Post affirming their bipartisan initiative to reestablish Congressional authority to approve military engagement. In their editorial, the representatives declared their intent to “foster an informed debate on a strategic alternative” to the 2001 AUMF enacted in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. 

The representatives who authored the op-ed were Reps. Justin Amash, I-Mich., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Jared Golden, D-Maine, Scott Perry, R-Pa., Dean Phillips, D-Minn., Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Spanberger.

“We applaud Rep. Meijer and Rep. Spanberger for their determined leadership to repeal outdated Authorizations for the Use of Military Force which have been twisted beyond their original intent and no longer serve America’s interests,” Nate Anderson, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, said in a written statement. “We’ve made significant progress by committing to end an endless war in Afghanistan, but it is only a start. Now Congress must reclaim its constitutional powers, and clean repeals of outdated military authorizations are a clear next step. We hope both parties can unite in passing legislation that will rebalance constitutional war powers for the wellbeing of our nation and its citizens.”

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