Foreign Policy

Resolution To Repeal 1991 and 2002 Military Force Authorizations Advances to Senate Floor

It may look like Congress is reclaiming its constitutional war powers, but the president still has plenty of ways to justify his military actions.

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to repeal the two laws that authorized America's wars in Iraq. The resolution will now progress to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Those laws, the 1991 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the 2002 AUMF, were passed to give the president broad discretion in his military campaigns against Iraq. They authorized military action absent the approval of Congress, which the Constitution designates as the sole body allowed to declare war. Congress in recent decades has enacted AUMFs and other legislation that have slowly diminished its ability to oversee the U.S. military's involvement in conflicts.

Repealing the two AUMFs could, in theory, give some of that power back to Congress. But these are antiquated authorizations and repeal would be largely symbolic. The 1991 AUMF hasn't been invoked since the original Gulf War. The 2002 AUMF has never been the sole statutory basis for U.S. military operations and has instead bolstered the formidable 2001 AUMF, which was passed to authorize action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. That measure has been used to justify counterterrorism operations in at least 19 countries, thanks to presidents' generous interpretations of its phrasing.

Because the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs don't undergird any current U.S. military conduct on their own, repealing them has been much more feasible than axing the 2001 AUMF. The administration has expressed its openness to replacing the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs with a "narrow and specific framework" governing military force, but given President Joe Biden's recent questionably legal airstrikes, it's unlikely he would cede a lot of power. AUMF reform might not limit executive war making, anyway—Biden hasn't invoked an AUMF to justify any of his attacks so far, instead relying on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and Article II of the Constitution.

This year has seen plenty of AUMF reevaluation, with the House voting to repeal the 1957, 1991, and 2002 AUMFs in June. (The 1957 AUMF, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, authorized force to counter possible communist hostility in the Middle East. It has never been used.) Members of Congress generally agreed that the first two are archaic.

But rolling back the 2002 AUMF has provoked some controversy. Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) warned recently that it "will be used as justification for continuing to go soft on Iran." Sen. Mike Rounds (R–S.D.) has cautioned that "a full repeal of the 2002 AUMF, without a tailored replacement, will limit our ability to combat the malign influence of Iran in the Middle East."

Even without the broad discretionary powers granted by an AUMF, the president has ways to wage war. Repealing AUMFs could put some power back in the hands of Congress. Military engagement is unlikely to stop altogether under those constraints, but we could get more deliberation and discussion before a president unleashes it.

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  1. Congress needs to start somewhere. Repeal the fucking things and be done with it.

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  2. Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) warned recently that it “will be used as justification for continuing to go soft on Iran.”

    No Ted, don’t. Let Israel and Saudi Arabia deal with Iran, and keep the US out. Both of those countries are totally capable of fucking Iran’s shit up just as well as the US. Maybe better.
    Half the reason Iran acts up is because they know the US has collars on both.

    1. Ted knows a thing or two about going soft.

      1. Yes, but Corey Chase…

    2. Well, one of those countries is.
      SA’s military isn’t exactly… formidable

      1. No, but their merc forces are. All former NATO pilots and special forces, and top-drawer equipment.

  3. >>Members of Congress generally agreed

    usually signals problem ahead.

    1. BiPaRtIsAn!

  4. Anyone who votes against this is in thrall to the intelligence, military and weapons industry.

    1. The new war on terror will be against Americans.

  5. Military engagement is unlikely to stop altogether under those constraints, but we could get more deliberation and discussion before a president unleashes it.

    LOL

    Okay.

  6. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced legislation to repeal decades-old authorizations for U.S. military missions in the Middle East, the first-time step in a larger effort in Congress to reclaim lawmakers’ war powers from the executive branch.

    A bipartisan majority of the panel voted 14 to 8 in favour of repealing authorizations Congress passed in 1991 and 2002 to approve of hostilities against Saddam Hussein’s erstwhile regime, first to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait and later to depose him. That legislative coalition all but guarantees that when the measure comes to the Senate floor — which Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has promised will happen this year — it will pass.

  7. But the greatest threat to America is right wing terrorists!
    And climate change!
    We should focus on that.
    And ignore Iran developing a nuclear bomb.
    And China building artificial islands and putting missiles on them.
    No, the real threat is conservative Americans

  8. Military engagement is unlikely to stop altogether under those constraints, but we could get more deliberation and discussion before a president unleashes it.

    From a president who issues decrees like eviction bans and mandating 50% of vehicles to be electric? Without any basis in law? Knowingly violating the Constitution?

    You seriously think Biden cares about “authorization of force”?

  9. Resolution To Repeal 1991 and 2002 Military Force Authorizations Advances to Senate Floor

    Great idea…30 and 19 years too late, respectively!

  10. What if Congress decided to declare war and the president didn’t send troops to fight?
    Yep.
    No war.
    Declaring war is an administrative and bureaucratic exercise.
    Only one person can send the troops to fight, and that person doesn’t need a declaration of war – something not done since 1941 – to be able to do so.
    All Congress can do is refuse to fund the mission, but the chickenshit bastards aren’t about to do that again, after what happened when they did it for Vietnam.
    Congress was responsible for the Killing Fields.

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