All Quiet on the McCarthy Front...

House Members Mum on Whether McCarthy Will Allow a Vote to Repeal Iraq War Powers

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), at a Jan. 12, 2023, news conference, has yet to say whether he'll let the House vote on repealing presidential Iraq war powers.


(Anna Moneymaker/Getty)

House lawmakers aren’t saying whether a Senate bill to formally end presidential authority to wage war in Iraq will even reach the House floor for a vote.

The Senate next week is expected to pass overwhelmingly legislation to repeal the 1991 Gulf War and 2002 Iraq War Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Pres. Joe Biden supports the legislation, which would both end the conflicts and reassert congressional authority over waging war.

But Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and GOP House leadership oppose the repeal, so it’s unclear whether the bill will even get a vote.

TYT heard from members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee both for and against the Senate’s proposed legislation.

Passage of the bill would be a historic move on the part of the Senate, according to one anti-war group, marking the first time in decades the legislative body has voted to repeal a war authorization.

Proponents of the repeal say it would reassert Congress’s exclusive constitutional power to declare war and restore some checks on the president’s ability to initiate military conflict. And it would halt the misuse of the authorizations to justify other uses of force unrelated to the AUMFs’ intended purposes.

But opponents argue that getting rid of the authorizations would leave the US susceptible to foreign adversaries.

Neither opponents nor supporters of repealing the AUMFs responded to TYT’s inquiry as to whether the legislation will get a vote.

In a statement, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central China, told TYT that he supports repeal.

“I have long called for the end of the 2002 AUMF,” Connolly said. “I have voted to repeal it before and, should this legislation pass the Senate and be taken up in the House, I will vote for it again.”

The office of Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who sits on the same subcommittee as Connolly, did not say how he would vote, but pointed to his previous support of repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF.

”I don’t have an answer on how he plans to vote on this upcoming legislation,” said Rachel Partlow, Burchett’s deputy communications director, in an email to TYT. “However, in 2021 Rep. Burchett voted in favor of legislation to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.”

House Foreign Relations Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) told TYT he opposes the approach the Senate is taking.

“Congress needs to own a comprehensive replacement CT (counter-terror) AUMF in consultation with our military commanders and the intelligence community,” McCaul said in a statement. “Piecemeal repeal of those Iraq authorities is not a serious contribution to war powers reform.”

Although no one’s saying whether repeal will get a vote in the House, several iterations of similar legislation have passed the House before, including Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-CA) amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act last year.

Heather Brandon-Smith, a Quaker lobbyist, says that the Senate taking action to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF is a “giant step forward.”

“[T]he reason that this vote is so big is that this will be the first time that the Senate has voted to repeal a war authorization in many decades, you know, let alone a post-911 war authorization,” said Brandon-Smith, legislative director for militarism and human rights for the nonpartisan Quaker lobbying group the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL),

In a floor speech Thursday, the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), lambasted the Senate for not taking action sooner.

“How dare we as Congress not have an urge to simply say after 20 years this war is over, the job is done,” said Kaine. “We owe it to our servicemembers to fulfill our constitutional obligations and vote to end endless wars.”

And bill co-sponsor, Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), said, “Leaving these authorities on the books creates an opportunity for abuse by the executive branch and bypasses Congress on the most important issue we consider as a body, which is how and when to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way.”

Throughout multiple administrations, Republican and Democrat presidents have used AUMFs far beyond their intended scopes to justify other counterterrorism attacks, according to the FCNL. And the 2002 authorization was put in place after then-Pres. George W. Bush and his administration pushed the lie that Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Hassan El-Tayyab, FCNL’s legislative director for Middle East policy, says the consideration by Congress to repeal the Iraq AUMF comes at a crucial time as Saudi Arabia and Iran are normalizing relations, with China mediating.

“[I]f the US really wants to stay relevant in this new era,” says El-Tayyab, “they need to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Iran-Saudi rapprochement and shift its approach towards the Middle East, away from hegemony and endless war and towards diplomacy, and restraint, and support for regional power-sharing agreements.”

TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.