Senate moving toward repeal of Iraq war powers

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 1:42 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Senators are moving toward rolling back decades of war powers that gave the executive branch the authority to conduct military action in Iraq. Senators voted Thursday to move ahead with legislation that would roll back the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq. Efforts to get rid of these war powers have failed on multiple occasions in recent years, but senators leading the charge are confident now is the time.

“It’s about recognizing the reality that Iraq is now a partner and the war’s over,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) who is leading the effort alongside Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) to get rid of what some call a blank check to conduct war in Iraq. Kaine says the AUMF is outdated and getting rid of it is well overdue. It repeals AUMFs passed in 1991 and 2002.

“I call it a zombie authorization for a war that no longer exists, creates a problem. A president can grab it and say I don’t need to come to Congress to ask permission to do something because here’s this authorization I can use,” said Kaine.

Opposition to getting rid of the AUMF is still strong. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) argues it limits executive power in a region that remains dangerous.

“There’s still a lot of activity going on in Iraq. Iran is very prevalent there,” said Boozman.

Boozman and other Republicans opposed to the repeal say the AUMF gives flexibility to the president and Pentagon to address threats that arise, including terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. Iraq is now a U.S. partner in the region, but Boozman does not think maintaining an AUMF hurts that relationship.

“They are partners. The pact is in place now, the ability to use force, that hasn’t seemed to be a detriment so far. So for awhile I think we need to keep in place,” said Boozman.

A timeline for the amendment process and final passage of this bill is not yet clear. The legislation will also have to clear the House before it heads to President Biden - who has indicated he is in favor of signing the repeal.