- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2020

House Democrats are making a renewed push to rein in President Trump’s war-fighting authority in a Thursday vote to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force and restrict taxpayer funding for a war with Iran without Congress’ approval.

The move is the second time in less than a year that Democrats are gearing up to pass legislation that was stripped from the final version of the 2020 defense policy bill in the face of objections from the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate.

The issue resurfaced earlier this month after the administration launched a fatal attack on a top Iranian general in Iraq, in response to an attack by Iran-backed Iraqi militias on an American base. Iran responded with a salvo of missiles at a U.S. military base in Iraq.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans have sharply criticized the White House’s failure to consult Congress ahead of the mission and of what they say are the administration’s shifting justifications for the airstrike.

Democrats, led by California Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna, hope to attract broader support for Thursday’s vote with modified language designed to attract undecided Republican lawmakers.

Lawmakers have long agreed that a new AUMF is necessary and that the 2001 and 2002 versions now in place are badly in need of an overhaul. However, there is far less of a consensus on what should replace it and how much latitude to give the president.

The White House has said President Trump opposes both bills, arguing that limiting the president’s authority will only “embolden our enemies.”

In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Trump noted that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq is at 5,000 and falling.

“I want everyone, Republican and Democrat, to vote their heart!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Although the measures are expected to pass the Democratic-held House, despite strong GOP opposition.

“Simply put, this is wrong,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said in a letter to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer this week requesting the bill be delayed. Democrats “are voting to weaken the president’s authority to defend the U.S. from Iran — which is bad enough,” he later tweeted.

Since its passage shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2002 AUMF has long been seen as an open-ended authority that cleared the way for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been used by Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump to justify missions and deployments around the world over the past 17 years.

Analysts say that it is time to reconsider the purpose and language of the nearly two-decades-old law, despite the partisan dispute.

Iraq is different than back then, the U.S. mission is different than back then,” said Abbas Kadhim, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Iraq initiative. “I think it is time for the United States to reassess the use of force based on today’s conditions and today’s situation.”

Mr. Kadhim pointed to a recent vote by Iraq’s parliament that called for U.S. forces to leave, but added that America’s continued presence has provided key resources to the country’s military through training programs. The campaign to keep Islamic State from rebuilding in the country would face a “major loss” if the support suddenly ended.

“All of that will be in jeopardy if the U.S. cannot be in Iraq the way it is right now,” he added.

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