The Senate on Monday cleared a final procedural hurdle toward repealing two Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF), setting the stage for a final vote on the bill this week.
Senators voted 65-28 to end debate on the measure to repeal the 1991 authorization for the U.S. invasion of Kuwait and the 2002 AUMF that paved the way for the Iraq War the following March. Sixty votes were required to advance the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said a final vote could take place as early as Tuesday. The upper chamber last week voted 67-28 on the motion to proceed to the bill. Senators also voted down a series of amendments from Republican members late last week but more amendment votes are taking place this week.
Schumer on Monday lauded the process that has led up to a looming final passage vote.
“We’re allowing Republican amendments, and most importantly, we’re not being dilatory,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “I hope this can be a method, a pattern of what we do in the future. … What happened on this AUMF bill is a good model for us for the future to get things done with bipartisan cooperation.”
Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are the lead co-sponsors of the legislation and argue that formally putting an end to the two AUMFs would signal support for Iraq, a strategic partner of the U.S.
“We’re going through the responsible, much-needed and much-neglected work of finally, legally bringing a war to a close,” Young said in a recent press conference.
More amendment votes are set to take place in the coming days on a number of items related to the AUMF that led to the Iraq War. A number of those are focused on Iran, the driving issue for a number of Senate Republicans who oppose overturning the AUMFs.
One amendment authored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) would require Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to certify in an assessment to Congress that “repeal will not degrade the effectiveness of United States-led deterrence against Iranian aggression.”
Another one proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says the 2002 Iraq AUMF “is not independently required” to allow the president to take military actions against affiliates of Iran and to “take actions for the purpose of ending Iran’s escalation of attacks on, and threats to, United States interests.”
However, others unrelated to the Iraq AUMF are also being proposed. Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) have amendments on issues pertaining to Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghanistan and Israel, respectively.
The vote comes on the heels of last week’s 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. U.S. forces formally withdrew from Iraq in 2011.
Despite the lack of fighting in Iraq in recent years, the 2002 AUMF has been utilized in that time. Former President Trump cited it when he ordered a missile strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in 2020.
Final passage of the AUMFs in the Senate would shift the process over to the House, which could be set to follow suit. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters last week that he would support the effort, as long as a separate 2001 AUMF for the war on terrorism remained on the books.
“I’m into it,” McCarthy told reporters during the House GOP’s retreat in Orlando, Fla., last week “I don’t have a problem repealing that.”
“I was not here to vote on either of the creation of those, but you’re 20 years into this now,” McCarthy said. “I still want to take actions if there are terrorists anywhere around the world. If we’re keeping that one AUMF and removing another one, that’s personally where I am.”