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House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq War authorization in effort to reclaim congressional war powers

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)/(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of revoking the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) on Thursday, in a move aimed at returning war powers to Congress that were ceded to the president following 9/11.

What are the details?

The effort, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), passed 268-161, with 49 Republicans joining all but one Democrat in voting for the repeal. Proponents argue that the authorization granted under President George W. Bush — for the purpose of military engagement in Iraq — has been abused by occupants of the Oval Office since its passage 19 years ago and utilized to extend far beyond its original purpose.

"Three presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have used this permission to drag out conflicts that will get us into new ones," Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said on the House floor prior to voting in favor of the legislation, The Washington Post reported.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), another proponent, argued, "Repeal is crucial because the executive branch has a history of stretching" [the authorization's legal authority], the Chicago Sun-Times reported. "It has already been used as justification for military actions against entities that had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist dictatorship simply because such entities were operating in Iraq."

The New York Post reported that Lee told her colleagues, "Once we pass a repeal of the 2002 AUMF, we must keep up our fight to repeal the 2001 AUMF so that no future president has the unilateral power to plunge us into endless wars."

"We can't afford to leave this in place indefinitely," she added. "For two decades, it has been in place. This is our opportunity to restore our constitutional role."

The New York Post reported that opponents of the measure argued that repealing the 2002 AUMF "could hinder US counterterrorism efforts, noting it was used as part of the legal rationale that allowed President Donald Trump's administration to move forward with the January 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the floor, "This feels like yet another political effort to undo one of President Trump's boldest counterterrorism successes: using the 2002 AUMF to remove Soleimani from the battlefield. Soleimani was Iran's mastermind of terror for decades."

President Joe Biden voted in favor of the AUMF as a senator in 2002, but has since expressed his regret for doing so. The White House supports the repeal effort passed by the House.

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