The House voted on Thursday to repeal a nearly two-decade-old war powers measure that expanded presidential authorities following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The House passed the bill by a bipartisan 268-161 vote that included 49 Republicans. If the bill gets through the Senate, it would end the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).
The chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-Calif.), who was the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization in 2001, praised President Biden for supporting the measure that moves the nation “one step closer to ending forever wars.”
“After nearly 20 years of fighting for this, we’re finally one step closer to ending forever wars,” the congresswoman tweeted following the news.
By pledging to sign the bill into law if it passes the Senate, Biden is “living up to what he knows is right, and he was very clear in his statement as to why this was important,” Lee said. “This has been a long time coming, but the importance of the Biden administration issuing this can’t be understated.”
This week, the White House issued a statement supporting Lee’s bill. “The President is committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats,” the statement said.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is spearheading a similar bill in the Senate alongside Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), although their version of the bill also repeals a 1991 authorization related to the first Gulf War. “So much has changed since 1991 and 2002: Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone; the Gulf and Iraq Wars are over; and Iraq is now a close security partner who should not be labeled an enemy state,” Kaine said in a statement.
Young called the vote “the most critical vote that any member of Congress could be asked to take.”
This type of measure repealing the AUMF has passed the House before but died under a then-Republican-controlled Senate. With Democrats now in control, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to bring the bill to the floor sometime this year, but whether Kaine and Young can gather enough Republican support to bypass the 60-vote filibuster is unclear.
Biden has also pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September of this year. According to Brown University’s Costs of War project, since the U.S. invasion, more than 182,000 civilians in Iraq have been killed by direct violence (although the number is likely larger). And since 2001, more than 71,000 civilians have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone.