- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

ORLANDO, Fla. — Top House Republicans said the Senate repeal of presidential authorization for use of military force in Iraq won’t get a rubber stamp from the lower chamber, but they are interested in modernizing laws granting the president the power to conduct military operations overseas.

The Senate voted 67 to 28 on Tuesday in a key test vote on bipartisan legislation to repeal the 2002 authorization Congress passed green-lighting the war in Iraq as well as a 1991 authorization allowing U.S. military action in the Gulf War.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said he wanted more.

“I think it would probably be modernizing,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters at a House GOP conference in Orlando.

He said the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider the Senate measure that is now poised to pass on Wednesday, and he believes some version of the bill will make it out of the committee and onto the House floor for a full vote.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, said he supports repealing the two war authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF). But he said he wants to replace them with updated versions, not simply eliminate them.   

“Congress needs to own a comprehensive replacement AUMF in consultation with our military commanders and the intelligence community,” Mr. McCaul told The Washington Times. “Piecemeal repeal of those Iraq authorities is not a serious contribution to war powers reform.”

The remarks from Mr. McCarthy and Mr. McCaul signal a complicated path for a war powers repeal, which has been a longtime goal of many Democrats and an increasing number of GOP lawmakers who have grown wary of overseas military entanglements.

Mr. McCarthy acknowledged his party’s growing interest in curbing congressional authorizations for military actions overseas following the two costly and deadly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are 20 years into this now,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I think it’s very healthy that we take this up and look at this.”

The Senate bill has broad bipartisan support. Nearly two dozen Republicans voted with all Democrats to easily advance the legislation to the floor on March 16, although a majority of the GOP Senate, 27 Republicans, voted against it.

President Biden said he would sign the Senate bill.

Democrats and some Republicans are also eyeing the repeal of a third authorization, issued in the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Mr. McCarthy does not back the elimination of the 2001 authority because it is used to combat global terrorism, he said.

“I still want to have that ability,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I’ve watched that the world is not a safe place. I still want to take action if there are some terrorists anywhere around the world, and we’re keeping that one AUMF and we’re removing another one, that’s personally where I believe I am.”

Mr. McCarthy said he won’t oppose repealing the 2002 measure authorizing the Iraq war but he expected it will be modernized rather than eliminated.

Biden administration officials called the 1991 and 2002 authorizations “outdated” and “unnecessary,” and signaled Mr. Biden is also interested in replacing the 2001 law “with a narrow and specific framework more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats.”

Dozens of Republicans in the House and Senate remain wary of repealing any of the authorizations.

The 2002 AUMF was used by President Trump in 2020 to authorize the military to kill Iraq’s terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani in a strike that took place at Baghdad International Airport. Many Democrats opposed the move to kill Soleimani.

The GOP supporters of the 2002 AUMF believe the authorization is still needed to help stop Iran-sponsored terrorist groups that target the U.S. military, diplomats and citizens abroad.

“We would avoid such dangers by taking up a repeal, but with a replacement, simultaneously,” Mr. McCaul said.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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