House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization as Senate prepares to take action

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US President George W. Bush (L) speaks before signing the joint congressional resolution authorizing US use of force against Iraq if needed, 16 October 2002, at the White House in Washington, DC. From L are House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Joyce Naltchayan | AFP | Getty Images

The House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq as Congress moves to rein in presidential discretion on using military force.

The chamber passed the measure by a 268-161 margin.

The bill heads to the Senate. The chamber’s Foreign Relations Committee plans to move forward next week with its own plan to revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

President Joe Biden supports the House bill to repeal the Iraq War authorization. His Office of Management and Budget said this week 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.”

Lawmakers from both parties have worried leaving the authorization in place will give presidents a legal backstop to justify unrelated military strikes. The Iraq War ended nearly a decade ago.

The House voted in January 2020 to repeal the AUMF after the U.S. launched an airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The Senate, then held by Republicans, did not pass the bill. The Trump administration cited the AUMF as the legal basis for the airstrike.

(R) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hold a news conference critical at the U.S. Capitol October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.

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Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., led the legislation the House passed Thursday. A longtime antiwar advocate, Lee was the only House member to vote against the 2001 war authorization in Afghanistan.

“This authority remains on the books, vulnerable to misuse because the Congress has not acted to remove it,” Lee said on the House floor Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., aims to hold a vote on revoking the Iraq AUMF this year, he said Wednesday. He said scrapping the authorization will “eliminate the danger of a future administration reaching back into the legal dustbin to use it as a justification for military adventurism.” 

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., have led the effort to revoke the AUMF in the Senate.

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