Efforts to repeal a 2002 US authorization for use of military force against Iraq got a boost Monday when the White House backed the idea, saying ending the AUMF would have “minimal impact” on current operations.
The development comes as the House of Representatives prepares to vote this week on bipartisan legislation that would repeal the longstanding AUMF, which authorized force against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy.
“Repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.”
The House voted in 2020 and 2019 to do away with the AUMF, but it was never taken up in the Senate, which was under Republican control.
The latest White House statement opens the door to a likely Senate vote on repeal, as Democratic leadership apparently has been waiting for a signal from President Joe Biden’s administration.
Supporters of the repeal say the AUMF has long outlived its purpose, but opponents argue that ending such authorization would hamstring US counterterrorism missions.
The 2002 AUMF, for example, was claimed as the legal backstop for the Trump administration’s killing of Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian military official, in Baghdad in 2020.
A broader AUMF, passed by Congress just days after the September 11 attacks of 2001, also remains on the books.
It authorizes force against perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the text has been used as justification for US military action in more than a dozen countries against associated forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
But the White House signaled that, too, could be repealed or modified.
“The president is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” the statement said.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine called the White House statement “an important first step in working together on war power issues.”
The War Powers Resolution, enacted in 1973 over Richard Nixon’s veto, was a way for Congress to claw back its authority following a massive, undeclared war in Vietnam.
It states that “the president in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States armed force into hostilities,” and forbids troops from remaining for more than 90 days without congressional authorization for use of military force.