White House Open to Revising War Powers

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to repeal Iraq AUMFs

In the face of a new push in Congress to revise the Executive Branch’s war powers, the White House is signaling it is willing to cooperate on the issue.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). The legislation would repeal  two authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) for Iraq, the 1991 AUMF passed for the Gulf War, and the 2002 AUMF used for the Iraq invasion.

“We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars,” Psaki wrote on Twitter.

One AUMF not addressed in Kaine’s bill is the 2001 AUMF that was passed for the war in Afghanistan and kicked off the War on Terror. The 2001 AUMF is by far the most abused and is still used today to fight ISIS, a group that didn’t exist when it was passed.

Earlier this week, Senator Kaine said Congress should reform the 2001 AUMF instead of repealing it, something the White House agrees with. Psaki told reporters on Friday that President Biden “agrees that the AUMF has been around for 20 years and it’s long overdue for it to be updated.”

The renewed focus on the AUMFs was sparked by Biden’s decision to bomb Syria last week. In a letter to Congress, President Biden did not cite a specific AUMF as the legal justification for the strike. Instead, he somehow claimed “self-defense” and said the action was within his legal authority as Commander in Chief.

The Trump administration had cited the 2002 Iraq AUMF as legal justification for the January 2020 assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.