Senate approaches 60-vote pivotal threshold for Iraq war clearance removal

“I mean, it’s the most solemn thing we should be doing. And we just put it on autopilot, ”said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Referring to the power of Congress to declare war. “And I think the further you go, the more uncomfortable people are with that.”

The idea has almost unanimous support among Democrats on Capitol Hill; and while most Republicans still believe the Commander-in-Chief must preserve all existing war authorities, a growing group of GOP lawmakers support repeal efforts. They are set to finally put this one on top after years of falling victim to Senate filibuster rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation.

“This is in part a function of the multi-year education that many of our constituents have received on the need to ensure that members of Congress are attentive to where our troops are located, where they are deployed, how many long they are deployed, and so on, ”said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who is leading the repeal push alongside Kaine.

The House has already approved separate measures to remove obsolete Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorizations, and President Joe Biden has said he supports their removal from the books. Biden’s support, Kaine said, “has been a real key to this.” The last abrogation of the AUMF passed by both chambers and enacted came in 1971, when then-President Richard Nixon approved a measure overturning the infamous Gulf of Tonkin resolution that paved the way for the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.

In many ways, the Senate – which has consistently rejected similar efforts to repeal AUMF in the past – will catch up with public opinion, which has long turned against America’s seemingly endless involvement in wars in the Middle East, especially as the United States prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“Congress, since I’ve been here, has slowly come to realize that we need to have more control over the process of starting and stopping wars,” Kaine said. The fact that current operations in the Middle East are based on an authorization that is nearly two decades old, he added, “has been a wake-up call for people,” he added.

In the Senate, where the 50 Democrats are expected to support the repeal measures, libertarian-minded Republicans like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul find themselves a little less alone in their own party. Supporters of the effort now have more traditional conservatives on their side, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is a co-sponsor of Bill Kaine-Young.

“This is a minority here,” Paul said of the Senate. “But I think the public is very supportive.”

Over the years, the House has consistently voted, both in committee and in the chamber, to repeal authorizations for war through defense policy or through the appropriation process. But these efforts have always been taken out of the final packages negotiated with the Senate, where the hawks of the defense have outsmarted those who pushed to reduce the president’s war powers.

This year, the repeal measures are unlikely to be put aside during the sausage-making legislative process. Once the Senate approves the effort, it will take one of two paths to become law: either the House and the Senate will form a conference committee to combine the efforts of both houses into a single bill. , or the issue will be resolved in negotiations on the annual requirement. -adopt the draft law on defense policy.

Kaine said the Defense Policy Bill is the most likely way to get the repeal measures on Biden’s desk.

Despite Senate filibuster rules, the upper house was able to pass war powers resolutions ordering the end of U.S. involvement in hostilities – votes that require a simple majority, rather than 60. voice. The House and Senate passed measures in 2019 to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen civil war, but then-President Donald Trump vetoed them and neither chamber was able to gather the two-thirds needed to override the veto.

And last year, the Senate passed a resolution to prevent Trump from attacking Iran, still with a simple majority threshold. Eight Republicans backed the bill, which was passed after Trump cited the 2002 AUMF as a legal justification for the airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. At the time, Democrats suggested that Trump’s opposition to the measure forced some Republicans to vote against, even though they agreed with the principle that the 2002 AUMF should not apply. to Iran.

Trump himself has often given mixed signals on the issue of warring powers, simultaneously denouncing “endless wars” at campaign rallies, but strongly rejecting efforts to limit US involvement abroad. .

Seven of those who voted for the Iran resolution still sit in the Senate – and Grassley, who voted against the resolution, has now gone to the yes camp. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Also voted against the Iranian measure, but told POLITICO he supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF. And Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Member newly elected, also said she would likely vote for.

“We have been adventurous around the world for too long,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Who also plans to support the bill. “So I’m going to be with the people who want to make sure we don’t let them linger.”

Most Republicans agree with the premise of the Kaine-Young Bill – that the 2002 and 1991 clearances are no longer required for basic operational tasks, including protecting US troops. But they argue that removing a president’s existing authority could complicate U.S. efforts to respond to future threats.

“The question is, when our troops are gone, what authority do we have then to prevent ISIS or the Taliban from doing things that are horrible and outrageous, that would be very damaging to our friends and allies? Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said.

Asked about Congress developing a new AUMF to address these challenges, Romney joked, “Yes, this is likely to happen when cows fly over the moon.

At the same time, the Republicans’ attempt to retain Iraqi clearances hardens around the party’s hawkish stance towards Iran, whose proxies have attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria in recent months. These attacks prompted retaliation from Biden, although the president claimed his self-defense authority under Article II to justify the offensives.

As Biden comes under close scrutiny by members of his own party for these strikes, Republicans have rushed to defend him. And GOP lawmakers justify their opposition to AUMF repeal measures by seeking to preserve Biden’s ability to attack Iran and its proxy forces in Iraq and Syria – although the AUMF has only authorized actions against the Iraqi government, not against specific militant groups based in Iraq. Today, the Iraqi government is a counterintelligence partner, and American troops are there with its permission.

As Republicans seek to brag about their hard line against Tehran, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) plans to introduce an amendment to the Kaine-Young bill that would give Biden the power to retaliate more directly against Iran.

This amendment is expected to fail primarily along party lines within the Democratic-led committee. But it’s another example of how Republicans portray Biden as weak towards Iran, especially as the administration seeks a revived nuclear deal with the regime.

“I fear this debate is being pushed by Democrats as part of the Biden administration’s pivot to Iran and the misguided intention to reinstate the disastrous Obama Iran nuclear deal,” Cruz said in a brief interview.


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