“Presidents should be allowed … to prosecute terrorists or other armed groups who seek to harm the United States or our personnel deployed around the world, on an ongoing basis, and to do whatever is necessary. necessary to reduce their ability to hit us – and if possible to wipe them out, ”said Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), deputy chairman of the intelligence committee and senior member of the foreign relations panel.
The debate on Capitol Hill comes as the Senate is due to vote this year on a bipartisan bill to repeal the authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) promulgated in 1991 for the Gulf War and in 2002 for the war. in Iraq. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) And Todd Young (R-Ind.).
The Maison has already repealed both authorizations, in addition to a 1957 AUMF that was never used. If the repeal measures reach Biden’s office, it would be the first time since the 9/11 attacks that Congress has reclaimed its constitutional war powers.
Supporters of the repeal received a boost when Biden spoke out in favor of removing at least the 2002 measure, which gave then-President George W. Bush the power to overthrow the government. government of Saddam Hussein. It was used by subsequent presidents to legally justify military action against terrorist threats that only developed after the passage of AUMF.
In a classified briefing Monday night for members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, senior administration officials argued that the 2002 authorization was functionally out of date, according to two people familiar with the briefing. Officials were “unequivocal” that the AUMF are not “exclusively” invoked for ongoing operations, and that any ongoing military action will not be affected by the repeal, another person familiar with the meeting said.
Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said after the briefing that he plans to move forward with markup of the AUMF repeal measure before senators do not leave Washington for summer vacation in August. He said the information provided was “useful” in making the case for repeal, but admitted that this would not satisfy everyone.
“There are other members who have ideological issues,” Menendez said. “There is no briefing in the world that I could ultimately provide that will deal with this.”
Most Republicans are expected to oppose the 2002 repeal of the AUMF, with many saying Congress should not deprive Biden of the legal authority to protect U.S. troops in light of a barrage of attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. In two recent bombing campaigns against Iranian proxies, Biden notably failed to cite AUMF as a legal justification; instead, he emphasized his Article II constitutional authority to defend Americans by launching retaliatory strikes.
“The president’s Article II constitutional authorities appropriately give him the power to defend our troops and our fundamental national interests,” said Young, the Republican leading efforts to repeal obsolete AUMFs. “He proved it by doing this – with no exceptions for my colleagues.”
Still, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said removing Iraq-linked AUMFs could ’embolden’ terrorist groups that some lawmakers say Biden lacks power continue. This includes al-Qaeda, the terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks that Republicans say will reconstitute in Afghanistan once the US withdrawal is over and potentially expand into Iraq and Syria, where US troops. are continuously attacked by Iranian proxy forces. Rather, GOP lawmakers want Biden to develop a clearer strategy to deter attacks, even if that includes launching preemptive strikes using the AUMFs currently in effect.
“It would be a very powerful start for the Biden administration to be very forceful and clear and to say unequivocally, we don’t think we are pressured into carrying out as many strikes as is necessary to protect the Americans from the militias. backed by Iran or any militia seeking to harm us, “Rubio said.” Degrading the ability of these groups to strike America or strike Americans anywhere in the world requires sustained pressure. “
Foreign Relations Committee Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) Said AUMF is necessary for troops in Iraq to “defend themselves properly”, adding: “You don’t want to have to just react after being attacked.
But even some of Biden’s allies say the president does not and should not have the power to launch offensive strikes against Iranian proxies without first seeking congressional approval. They also argue that the 2002 AUMF could not legally be used to justify attacks on Iranian proxies.
“I think there are colleagues, who never want to see the repeal, who advocate that this is the reason not to repeal,” Menendez said of GOP pressure to preserve the Iraqi AUMF.
It’s no surprise that Republicans are pushing for a tougher line against the government in Tehran. The GOP broadly supported the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which included withdrawing from the Obama-era nuclear deal and imposing a series of biting sanctions .
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told POLITICO that he plans to introduce an amendment to the AUMF repeal measure that “would make it clear that there is a sufficient authority to protect our soldiers and our women and to protect The American lives from Iranian military aggression.
Such a stance would grant Biden extensive authority to attack Iran for its malicious activities in the region, including its nuclear ambitions and support for terrorist groups that target Americans. But Biden has no interest in that authority, officials say, as his administration seeks to revive the nuclear deal Trump canceled in 2018.
Democrats are expected to redouble their efforts to repeal AUMF on Tuesday when the House Appropriations Committee votes on the Pentagon’s annual spending legislation.
Progressive Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Who has led the House’s efforts to clean up the broad spectrum of war powers, plans to propose amendments that would repeal the 2002 Iraq War Permit and end the 2001 AUMF which governs a myriad of operations around the world, including the war in Afghanistan. Lee added the measures to the must-see defense funding bill in previous years, though the effort did not survive in the compromise spending legislation negotiated with the Senate.
Pro-repeal lawmakers project confidence in the prospects of breaking a GOP-led obstruction in the upper house when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer puts the Kaine-Young bill to a vote later this year. Already, several Republicans have spoken in favor of it. If all 50 Democrats vote for the measure, it would need the support of at least 10 GOP senators to pass.
After that, the House and the Senate should reconcile their bills into one big legislative package. Kaine, the main Democratic sponsor of the effort, said the issue was likely to be addressed as part of the annual Defense Policy Bill, a must-see piece of legislation that will head to Biden’s office this year. . He has previously discussed potential options with Lee.
“Just do it,” Kaine said when asked about his strategy. “How do we get him to Biden’s office quickly?”
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.