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Democrats Move to Curtail War Powers

Critics say bill limits America's ability to counter terror

Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee / Getty Images
• March 29, 2021 4:50 pm

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House Democrats are pushing a bill through Congress limiting America’s ability to fight terrorists in the Middle East, critics say.

Last Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted mostly on party lines to repeal a 2002 military authorization used since the Iraq war for counterterrorism operations in the region. The bill—which will soon hit the House floor—removes the Pentagon's war powers without a replacement plan in place, Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.) told the Washington Free Beacon.

"Voting to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) without a replacement is voting to disregard the terrorist threats in Iraq," Barr said. "This decision also surrenders the role of Congress in consenting to the use of military force under Article I of the Constitution. Congress should instead reassert its role in the process of authorizing military force and examine ways to update the 2002 AUMF to better reflect the current national security threats in the region."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) joined Barr in opposing the repeal package, saying the threats the 2002 resolution addressed remain in Iraq.

"The terrorism threats that underlie those authorizations are still there," Rubio told Politico last week. "There’s clearly terrorist activity inside of Iraq."

Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) also expressed concerns, saying the Democrat-led repeal effort was a "dangerous mistake."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), a former black panther and longtime supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, introduced the legislation with apparent support from the White House. In March, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was open to changes in presidential war powers in a larger effort to end America’s "forever wars." President Biden, however, said he does not expect troops to leave Afghanistan by a May 1 deadline.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee did not consult the Department of State or the Department of Defense before passing the bill, major executive branch players in the use of presidential war powers. The Trump administration used the same 2002 authorization, under fire from Lee and other Democrats, as a part of its legal justification for the drone strike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Iran-backed militias continue to operate in Iraq, some of which are suspected to have targeted U.S. forces in the country in March. A civilian contractor on base during the March rocket strike suffered a heart attack while sheltering and died as a result.

Published under: Andy Barr, Defense, Iran, Iraq, Terrorism