Bipartisan Push Clears Senate Hurdle

Bipartisan Push Clears Senate Hurdle

( – When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they gave Congress the power to declare war. However, in the last few decades, lawmakers have chipped away at their own authority and allowed the executive branch to authorize more military action, especially in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. But now, Congress wants its powers back.

On March 16, the Senate voted 68 to 27 (with five senators not voting) to advance S. 316, legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and 17 other Republicans voted with Democrats to advance the bill.

The Missouri Independent reported Senator Todd Young (R-IN), the bill’s primary co-sponsor, said the 2002 AUMF hasn’t been used to justify any conflicts in a decade. He explained leaving it in place just “creates an opportunity for abuse by the executive branch and bypasses Congress” on the most critical issue of when to put American lives on the line.

The legislation doesn’t include the 2001 AUMF that Congress approved specifically for the war on terrorism. It was originally meant for the Afghanistan War but has since been used by presidents to justify other uses of military force related to counterterrorism efforts. For example, during former President Barack Obama’s administration, the executive branch repeatedly pointed to it after launching airstrikes in Libya against the Islamic State.

That means that until Congress passes legislation repealing the 2001 authorizations, US presidents will continue to have the authority to order the use of force when they want. There’s no word on when or if lawmakers will move to revoke that order.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is bringing the legislation to a full vote before the end of March. President Joe Biden has indicated he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

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