By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed legislation on Wednesday that would repeal congressional authorizations for past wars with Iraq, a significant step in lawmakers’ effort to wrest back the power to declare war from the White House.
The 20-member panel backed the measure by voice vote with support from members of both parties, although at least seven Republicans asked to be recorded as “no” votes.
The committee’s action sent the joint resolution to the full Senate, where it is strongly supported by Democrats and backers say it is expected to garner enough Republican support to win the 60 votes needed for passage.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he planned a vote this year. “The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. An authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” Schumer said as he opened the Senate on Wednesday.
The legislation would repeal Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) passed in 1991 and 2002 for wars against Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Proponents of repeal argued that Iraq’s current government should be treated as a U.S. partner, not an enemy.
The House of Representatives backed repeal in June.
President Joe Biden’s administration supports the repeal, which is moving through Congress as opinion polls show Americans are weary of years of “forever wars” in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere against militant groups.
Opponents said repeal would send a message of weakness in a volatile region. “I really believe that it would be a bad message to send… that we’re backing away from this,” said Senator Jim Risch, the top Foreign Relations Republican.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, a leader of the repeal effort, listed 10 reasons to vote yes. Among others, he called repeal a step toward Congress taking seriously “its most solemn responsibility” to send troops into combat, and prevent serious abuses in the future.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Howard Goller)