Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said Monday that he will move forward on a committee vote to repeal two Iraq War authorizations after a closed-door hearing on the matter.
The House passed separate bills last month to repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force against Iraq, which provided legal justification for the Persian Gulf War and President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Republicans on the Senate panel delayed an initial vote on the matter and requested classified hearings, including testimony from the Defense and State departments.
“I think there were several members who had asked for this briefing that I think were very honest in terms of them trying to figure out what is the right policy, what is the right vote,” Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, told Punchbowl News. “And, I suspect, this briefing was very helpful for them in coming to that conclusion.”
Mr. Menendez did not provide a date for the committee vote, which is required before a floor vote, but said it would likely be before the August recess.
Republicans on the panel provided little insight into how they would vote.
Sen. James E. Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the committee, described the issue as “complex” and said it was “fluid at this point.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who led the effort to postpone the committee vote, expressed disappointment that no Cabinet-level secretaries attended the discussion Monday.
The repeal of military force authorization would be the first rollback of presidential war powers since 9/11, though critics say threats from Iran and the Islamic State group persist in the region.
Before the briefing, Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican, urged committee Democrats to hold an open hearing. He cited Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. troops and diplomats in Iraq and Syria.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, supports the measure to repeal the authorizations and has committed to a floor vote by the end of the year.
“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. The authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” Mr. Schumer said.
The Biden administration also supports the repeal.
“The president is committed to working with Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” the White House said.
Multiple attacks in recent weeks have targeted U.S. personnel in the region. In late June, the Biden administration carried out an airstrike on Iranian-backed militia fighters in Iraq and Syria in response to attacks. The administration carried out a similar strike in February.
The administration cited executive war powers under Article 2 of the Constitution for both strikes as its sole domestic authority, straying from previous administrations’ tendency to lean on the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force for similar strikes.