The USS Harry S. Truman is pictured anchored in The Solent on Oct. 8, 2018, near Portsmouth, England. Photo by Matt Cardy | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force that allowed the George W. Bush administration to wage war against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq.
Most House Democrats joined 11 Republicans and one independent to approve a resolution backing the repeal amid concerns about escalating tensions with Iran and complaints by members of Congress that the legislative branch has been sidelined by the executive branch in decisions about waging war.
The final tally was 236-166.
Two Arizona Republicans were among the 11 GOP members who backed the repeal: Reps. Andy Biggs and David Schweikert. Democrats Tom O’Halleran, Raúl Grijalva, Ruben Gallego and Greg Stanton also voted for the repeal.
Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko opposed the effort; Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick did not vote. Kirkpatrick is on a leave of absence to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.
Supporters of the repeal have long portrayed the effort as an attempt to restore Congress’ power. It’s gotten renewed attention after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time of his death in early January.
“For too many years, Congress has allowed administration after administration after administration to sideline us on critical foreign policy matters,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The American people are sick of perpetual war. And if we don’t do everything in our power to make sure this administration cannot plunge us into another war that we don’t want, then we will have let the American people down,” Engel said.
Several House Republicans made similar arguments, including some staunch allies of Trump’s.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump loyalist who endorsed Democrats’ AUMF repeal effort, noted on the House floor that Hussein died more than a decade ago.
“If we are unable to declare victory and bring our troops home at this time, after Saddam is dead, after his regime has evaporated, after ISIS has collapsed, then no war is ever truly winnable, and every authorization is an authorization for a forever war,” Gaetz said on the House floor.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers penned an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting the repeal of the 2002 AUMF.
“This authorization has fully outlived its purpose, given the death of Hussein, regime change and the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, regardless of how one views the merits of that withdrawal,” they wrote.
But the measure adopted Thursday faces opposition from the White House and many Republicans who warn it will hinder the executive branch from protecting Americans. Opponents argue that dissolving the AUMF without an adequate substitute would weaken U.S. national security.
“We should not be repealing current counter-terrorism authorities unless and until we have replaced them with an updated AUMF that clearly allows us to confront the enemies that continue to threaten our nation, our people and our allies,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday ahead of the House vote: “With Votes in the House tomorrow, Democrats want to make it harder for Presidents to defend America, and stand up to, as an example, Iran. Protect our GREAT COUNTRY!”
Some of the Republicans who voted to end the AUMF positioned their vote as ultimately helping Trump achieve his military aims, and said the president actually wants Congress to outline “clear targets, objectives, (and) end goals” for the use of military force.
“Trump wants to move away from the tired foreign policy paradigms of the past, and we intend to help him achieve this aim,” Biggs and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) wrote in an op-ed in The Hill on Wednesday, adding that they plan to introduce “a more clearly-defined AUMF” to ensure regular congressional oversight.
The House also voted 228-175 Thursday to approve a separate measure to block funding for military action against Iran. That measure had the support of four House Republicans and one independent.
Arizona’s delegation split along party lines in that vote, with the exception of Kirkpatrick, who did not vote.
The White House has threatened to veto both measures.
The House voted earlier this month on another resolution to curtail Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval.
A similar bipartisan resolution has been introduced in the Senate by Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Kaine said he had 51 votes needed to advance his resolution in the Senate, but the effort has stalled amid the Senate impeachment trial.
Enacting the resolution would likely require two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to override an expected Trump veto, AP reported.
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