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Senate votes to repeal Iraq War authorization

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia speaks with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on March 15. Kaine led the bipartisan effort to repeal the Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force with Indiana Republican Todd Young.
Chip Somodevilla
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Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia speaks with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on March 15. Kaine led the bipartisan effort to repeal the Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force with Indiana Republican Todd Young.

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate voted 66-30 on legislation to formally repeal the war authorizations that justified the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.

"This effort has been years in the making," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. "The American people are tired of endless wars in the Middle East."

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Todd Young, R-Ind., led a years-long bipartisan effort to repeal these authorizations for use of military force. Kaine said the effort faced indifference from the Obama administration and outright opposition from the Trump administration, but the political stars aligned under President Biden who has indicated he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

The action is largely symbolic as U.S. combat operations against Iraq ended more than a decade ago, and if enacted, the repeals would have no effect on any ongoing military operations. Rather, supporters argued it was important for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority to start and end wars.

"A lot has changed in the last 20 years, and yet according to our laws today, we are still at war with Iraq," Young said on the floor Wednesday. "This isn't just the result of an oversight, it's an intentional abdication of this body of its constitutional role in Americans' national security, and allowing it to continue is a strategic mistake."

Senators side-stepped the more difficult debate about how to address the 2001 war authorization that was approved in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and has given broad legal authority to four presidents to conduct counter-terrorism operations around the world.

Amendments by two Republican senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah — addressing the 2001 AUMF were overwhelmingly rejected. Paul's amendment would have sunset the 2001 AUMF in six months to force Congress to rewrite or repeal it, and Lee's amendment would sunset all AUMFs every two years to force every new Congress to assess whether the war authority should continue.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has not yet committed to a vote, but the measure has bipartisan support in the House. A similar bill passed the then-Democratic-led chamber in 2021.

McCarthy has signaled the House Foreign Affairs Committee would hold its own markup on the bill before it gets to the floor.

"I think it has a good chance of one getting through the committee and getting to the floor," McCarthy told reporters during a recent GOP retreat in Florida.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.