Senate panel moves forward on AUMF repeal vote

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said Monday that he will move forward on a committee vote to repeal two Iraq War authorizations after a closed-door hearing on the matter.

The House passed separate bills last month to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force against Iraq, which provided legal justification for the Gulf War and President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq

Republicans on the Senate panel delayed an initial vote on the matter and requested classified hearings on the matter, including testimony from the Defense and State departments.

“I think there were several members who had asked for this briefing that I think were very honest in terms of them trying to figure out what is the right policy, what is the right vote,” Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, told Punchbowl News after Monday’s hearing. “And, I suspect, this briefing was very helpful for them in coming to that conclusion.”

Mr. Menendez did not provide a date for the committee vote, which is required before a floor vote, but said it would likely occur before the Senate’s August recess.

Republicans on the panel provided little insight into how they would vote on the matter.

Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee, described the issue as “complex” and said it was “fluid at this point.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who led the effort to postpone the committee vote, expressed disappointment that there were no Cabinet-level secretaries present in Monday’s discussion.

The repeal of the authorization for use of military force would be the first rollback of presidential war powers since 9/11, though critics say threats persist in the region from Iran and the Islamic State.

Before the briefing Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican, urged committee Democrats to hold an open hearing on the matter, citing Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. troops and diplomats in Iraq and Syria.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer supports the measure to repeal the authorizations and has committed to a floor vote by the end of the year.

“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. The authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat.

The Biden administration also supports its repeal.

“The president is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” the White House said.

U.S. personnel have been targeted by multiple attacks in the region in recent weeks. In late June, the Biden administration carried out an airstrike on Iranian-backed militia targets in Iraq and Syria in response to attacks on personnel in the regions. The administration carried out a similar strike in February.

The administration cited executive war powers under Article II of the Constitution for both strikes as its sole domestic authority, straying from previous administrations’ tendency to lean on the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force for similar strikes.

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