War on Terror

House of Representatives Votes to Rescind Authorization for Our Endless Wars

It's not likely to get anywhere in the Senate, but consider it progress.


Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 war in Afghanistan, is finally making some headway in her efforts to convince her fellow lawmakers that it's time to rescind the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), a congressional measure which permits military action against any terrorist group connected to the 9/11 attacks. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that includes an amendment from Lee that repeals the AUMF 240 days after the bill becomes law.

If this bill passed the Senate as written, it would end the authorization behind America's current military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Lee's amendment was attached to HR2740, a spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill passed the House 226-203, almost completely along party lines. Every Republican voted no (as did seven Democrats). Note that this doesn't necessarily mean that all Republicans in the House oppose Lee's proposal. It takes up less than a single page in a 600-plus page bill full of spending plans, so they might have other reasons for voting no.

Lee's amendment is not likely to survive when it reaches the Republican-controlled Senate. But it's still notable that there was enough support for it to survive the House, which has now voted to end the blanket authorization that has served mostly to further destabilize the Middle East, cost Americans lives, and fuel new tribal and sectarian conflicts.

Beyond the repeal of the AUMF, HR2740 also states that nothing in the bill authorizes the use of military force against Iran, a provision which is especially relevant now that the Trump administration is rattling sabers in Iran's direction.

The House version of the bill also calls for the removal of any military forces from Yemen that are not engaged in the fight against al Qaeda forces.

Lee put out a statement celebrating the success of her repeal effort in the House:

Two years ago, this same amendment was passed out of the Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis but was undemocratically stripped out by House Speaker Paul Ryan. The passage of this spending bill with the 2001 AUMF repeal included is a historic and timely step forward in reasserting Congress' constitutional authority on matters of war and peace.

With the Administration continuing to dangerously escalate tensions with Iran and publicly floating utilizing the 2001 AUMF as a legal basis for military action against Iran, this vote sends an important signal to the Administration that it cannot take military action against Iran without prior Congressional approval. This is a stark reminder of the dangers of leaving this overly broad authorization on the books.

Congress has been missing in action for too long. The 2001 AUMF has been cited as the legal justification for military action 41 times in 18 countries – and those are only the unclassified instances. We cannot afford to let the Trump Administration utilize this blank check for endless war as the legal basis for a disastrous war with Iran.

Lee's proposal is buried all the way down at page 373, under the header Section 9025.

This has been updated to correct that Lee's vote was against the use of military force in Afghanistan.