Biden backs effort in Congress to repeal ‘forever war’ authority in Iraq

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration said on Monday it supported an effort in the U.S. Congress to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that allowed the war in Iraq, boosting lawmakers’ push to pull back the authority to declare war from the White House.

“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, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” the administration said in a policy statement.

The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress. However, that authority has gradually shifted to the president as Congress passed AUMFs that did not expire – such as the 2002 Iraq measure, as well as one that allowed the fight against al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A handful of members of Congress have been pushing for years to repeal, and possibly replace, the authorizations.

The administration statement said Biden is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations are repealed and replaced with “a narrow and specific framework” to ensure the country can continue to protect itself.

The House of Representatives is due to vote this week on the legislation to repeal the 19-year-old Iraq war authorization, which was introduced by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee. There was no immediate word on when the Senate might consider it.

Lee has long sought to hold presidential military powers in check. She was the only member of Congress to oppose the AUMF passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks, saying it provided too much of a “blank check” to allow the president to pursue military action.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. senators offer bill to rein in Biden war powers after Syria strike

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. senators introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday to repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force used to justify years of attacks in the Middle East, an effort to shift back the authority to declare war to Congress from the White House.

The measure, led by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Todd Young, would repeal 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, citing the “strong partnership” between Washington and the government in Baghdad.

Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to authorize war.

But those AUMFs – and a third one, from 2001, for the fight against al Qaeda – have been used to justify strikes by both Democratic and Republican presidents since they were passed. They have been criticized as allowing “forever wars” that have kept U.S. forces fighting overseas for decades.

The bill’s introduction came a week after Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration carried out air strikes against facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militia in Syria that renewed questions about whether a president should be able to conduct such actions without congressional approval.

Tensions have been rising with Iran, after strikes in the region blamed on Tehran.

“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” Kaine said in a statement.

Members of Congress from both parties have sought repeatedly to repeal the AUMFs in recent years, but efforts have fallen short.

The other sponsors of the new measure include Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth, Chris Coons and Dick Durbin, as well as Republican Senators Mike Lee, Chuck Grassley and Rand Paul.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)