Senate Passes Bill Limiting President’s Powers to Conduct Iraq Military Operations, Moves to House

A soldier stands in front of Al-Askari mosque, Resting Place of the Two Imams Ali al-Hadi
Ameer Al-Mohammedawi/picture alliance via Getty Images

Legislation that would limit the executive branch’s powers to conduct military operations in Iraq without congressional approval passed the Senate Wednesday and now awaits a House vote under Republican leadership.

A bipartisan group of senators voted 66-30 to repeal 1991 and 2002 authorizations (AUMF) for combat operations against Iraq to reduce American presidents’ broad powers to conduct military operations without congressional approval.

Notably, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) whipped against clawing back congressional war powers from the executive branch.

The Associated Press

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The bill will head to the House, where the Republican chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), appears to be the biggest obstacle to its passage.

The Associated Press

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

On March 21, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) signaled he would not have a “problem” repealing the president’s powers.

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a ceremony to nullify the D.C. crime bill, at the Capitol in Washington, March 10, 2023. Republicans and Democrats have been dancing around each other about the need to raise the government's legal borrowing authority. President Joe Biden tried to edge closer on Thursday, March 9, by releasing his budget plan that cuts deficits by $2.9 trillion over 10 years, an offer that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, quickly dismissed as woefully insufficient. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

But McCaul claims he is still waiting for McCarthy’s approval. McCaul, an establishment Republican, has been a strong advocate of sending billions to defend Ukraine’s border.

“I’m still waiting to hear back from leadership on if we can go forward with a replacement, and if not, I’m sure it probably has the votes to pass,” he told the New York Times.

President Joe Biden has issued support for the measure, putting pressure on establishment House Republicans to support the measure in committee.

GOP Rep. Steube: Lack of Mission for Ukraine Funding Reminds Me of Lack of Clear Mission with Iraq War:

A political shift has occurred in American politics in recent decades. Many far-left politicians and conservatives have united against the establishment on some issues. One of those issues is repealing the AUMF. The Times reported about the shift:

Over the past few years, there has also been a pronounced generational shift in Congress and in both parties, where antiwar voices on the left have aligned with “America First” enthusiasts on the right who resist entangling the United States in foreign conflicts. Only 69 lawmakers remain in Congress who cast a vote for the 2002 Iraq war authorization, when about half of them supported it. Of those 69, only 17 oppose repealing the measure today. At the same time, many of the new entrants have brought different attitudes to Washington about how Congress should approach matters of war and peace.

“Twenty years gives time for people to change their minds and think about things and evaluate them, and so I think that’s all part of it,” said Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s reasonable to think that this has the ability to make it all the way.”

Yet the road through the Republican-led House may depend chiefly on whether party leaders who have historically opposed repealing such measures are willing to relent — and those leaders are presently under tremendous pressure to stop the bill in its tracks.

Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø. He is the author of Politics of Slave Morality.


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