US Senate backs repeal of ‘zombie’ permits for Iraq War, 20 years after invasion

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Senate easily passed legislation on Wednesday to rescind two-decade-old permits for past wars in Iraq, while Congress is urging to play its role in deciding whether to send troops 20 years after the last invasion to send into battle to assert again.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 66-30 to pass legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, a bipartisan majority well above the 51 votes needed to pass the measure that formalized the Gulf would end and Iraq wars.

To become law, repealing the two Iraqi AUMFs has yet to pass the Republican-led House of Representatives, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled his support but said at a news conference last week the matter should first be reviewed by a House committee and not proceed directly become a ground vote.

President Joe Biden has said he will sign the measure when it passes through both the Senate and House of Representatives and reaches his desk.

Twenty years after the March 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the vote was a historic if symbolic step away from a war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans, complicated politics in the Middle East and the US bitterly divided politics.

Supporters of the repeal also said they recognized that Iraq was no longer an adversary but had become a US security partner.

The resolution would also overturn the Gulf War AUMF approved in 1991 after Saddam’s Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The Iraqi AUMFs have been dubbed “zombie” authorizations because they never expire but their original purpose no longer applies.

“Constitutional Role”

It was also the latest attempt by US lawmakers to regain Congressional authority over whether to send troops into combat, which proponents of repeal say had been wrongly ceded to the White House when the Senate and House of Representatives passed and it then failed to pick up open ones. ended war permits.

“This vote shows that Congress is willing to take back our constitutional role in deciding how and when a nation goes to war, and also when to end wars,” said Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of Democrats, before the vote.

“It also protects future governments from abusing permits that outlast their mandate but still remain on the books,” Menendez said.

Under the US Constitution, Congress, not the President, has the right to declare war.

Lawmakers were divided on whether to let the AUMFs stand, leaving military commanders to decide how best to fight US enemies. As a result, no AUMF repeals have passed since 1971, although some committees or a Chamber of Congress have passed.

In 1971, Congress voted to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave authority for the Vietnam War.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a House hearing that while it was up to Congress to decide whether the Iraqi AUMFs would be lifted, the military could still “do what we have to do” based on a separate AUMF issued after September 11, 2001, attacks authorizing military action against extremists.

McConnell, who is recovering from a fall in Washington, issued a statement opposing the repeal.

“Our terrorist enemies are not ending their war against us. And when we put our military personnel at risk, we must provide them with all the support and legal powers we can,” he said, citing recent attacks such as one in Syria last week that killed an American and wounded six others.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle with additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Cynthia Osterman)

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