Senate begins debate on rescinding Iraq War and Gulf War permits

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to open a debate on a bipartisan bill that would reverse Congressional authorizations of 1991 and 2002 for the US wars in Iraq.

Lawmakers voted 68-27 to go ahead with the legislation, a move that required 60 votes and the first of several votes related to the measure.

The bill would remove authorizations for the use of military force in the 1991 Gulf War under President George HW Bush and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq under President George W. Bush.

A convoy of US Army tanks driving down the Kuwait to Dhahran road in the Saudi desert as US troops begin the withdrawal from Kuwait, March 5, 1991. (Mike Nelson/AFP via Getty Images file)

In a speech on the floor Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the bill put “the last remnants of these conflicts right behind us.”

“The United States, the nation of Iraq and the entire world have changed dramatically since 2002, and it is time for the laws on the books to catch up with those changes,” he said. “The Iraq war itself is long over. This AUMF has outlived its purpose and we can no longer justify keeping it in place.”

The White House said in a formal statement Thursday that President Joe Biden will sign the law when it gets on his desk. However, the House of Representatives would have to vote on it first before that could happen if it passed the Senate.

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., are the primary sponsors of the effort. A total of 41 senators supported the bill, including 12 Republicans. Kaine said the Iraqi government supports the law, telling reporters, “They see it as an acknowledgment of the new chapter in their relationship and it would be seen as a positive.”

In particular, the law would not repeal or interfere with the war authorization that Congress passed in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks that sparked the so-called War on Terror. US Presidents have since relied on this measure to authorize various military operations against non-state terrorist organizations that posed a threat to Americans.

Congress has previously been unable to pass repeals of these wartime authorizations, largely because of heated disagreements over the 2001 measure. Over the past decade, a number of lawmakers have called for repeal of this authorization because they believe it is too broad and was taken advantage of. But debate over the measure has been stubborn because some members of Congress have wanted to change the language or keep it altogether.

At a press conference following the Senate vote, Kaine was asked what was different this time, after years of working to get the war authorizations rescinded.

“I think as we get closer to the 20th anniversary, more people are realizing that there is potential zombie authorization abuse in the books,” he said.

Young told reporters, “I believe this will set a very important precedent going forward, so the people I represent and Senator Kaine and so many others know that their voice counts when it comes to important decisions about war and… peace goes. “

The Senate is expected to continue considering and voting on the repeal of the Iraq War Authorities next week. Kaine said those changes will likely focus on Iran and Article II, which deals with executive power.

The US withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011 when Biden was Vice President. Biden withdrew US forces from Afghanistan in 2021 in a widely criticized, chaotic operation, ending America’s longest war.

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