When the Constitution was written by the Founding Fathers, unknowingly, they have given Congress the authority to proclaim war. Yet, in recent years, particularly in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, lawmakers have reduced their own power and permitted the executive branch to approve more military action. Congress wants its authority back, though, right now.
On March 16, the Senate passed S.316, a bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq, by a vote of 68 to 27 (with five senators abstaining). The bill was advanced with the support of Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and 17 other Republicans and Democrats.
According to Senator Todd Young (R-IN), the main sponsor of the bill, there haven’t been any wars justified by the 2002 AUMF in ten years. He said that keeping it in place only gives the executive branch a chance to abuse its power and avoids Congress on the most important matter—when to put American lives in danger.
Today, the Senate took the first steps to formally end the Gulf and Iraq wars.— Senator Todd Young (@SenToddYoung) March 16, 2023
@TimKaine and I joined @AmericanLegion members to talk about how our bipartisan bill will honor our veterans and restore the constitutional role of Congress. pic.twitter.com/VBgv3f8LM1
The 2001 AUMF, which Congress passed particularly for the war on terrorism, is not included in the legislation. It was initially intended for the Afghanistan War, but presidents have since used it to support additional uses of military action in connection with counterterrorism initiatives. For instance, the executive branch frequently referred to it after the former President Barack Obama’s government launched airstrikes in Libya against the Islamic State.
This means that US presidents will continue to have the power to order the use of force whenever they wish, pending passage of legislation by Congress abolishing the 2001 authorizations. Legislative action to revoke the order is not yet known when or if it will take place.
Before the end of March, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) will put the bill to a full vote. According to President Joe Biden, if the bill reaches his desk, he will sign it.