Lawmakers May Repeal Iraq War Measures 08/04 06:17
(AP) -- The Biden administration encouraged lawmakers on Tuesday to finally
repeal an authorization for military action in Iraq crafted when Saddam Hussein
was still alive, rejecting Republican arguments it would further signal to Iran
that the U.S. is retreating from the Middle East.
Debate in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on ending Congress's 2002
resolution for military force against Iraq comes as part of a larger discussion
by some lawmakers on axing or replacing decades-old congressional
authorizations for military force.
Tuesday's debate also is part of a growing tug-of-war between the Biden
administration and lawmakers who say Joe Biden is only the latest U.S.
president to flout congressional authority with military strikes and
deployments in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and other hotspots.
Appearing before the panel, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke up
for one apparent area of agreement between the White House and Democratic
lawmakers in the debate: ending Congress's standing 2002 authorization for U.S.
troops to strike in Iraq. U.S. forces -- acting on later disproven U.S. claims
that Saddam was sitting on weapons of mass destruction -- invaded Iraq in 2003.
They captured the Iraqi leader months later and turned him over to a new Iraqi
government, which hanged him in 2006.
The committee is due to vote Wednesday on repealing the 2002 resolution and
a 1991 measure authorizing the U.S.-led Gulf War to roll back Saddam in an
invasion of Kuwait. Biden voted for the resolution in 2002, later calling it a
mistake, and against going to war in 1991 in his long career as a senator from
Iraq today is a partner of the United States, not an enemy, Sherman told
lawmakers. She argued that repealing the 2002 resolution would demonstrate the
changed relationship and be a setback to rival Iran, which wants neighboring
Iraq firmly in its sphere of influence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had pushed the Biden administration
when he visited Washington last month to remove some of the last vestiges of
the U.S. invasion, which effectively ended in 2011.
Several committee Republicans argued repealing the decades-old
authorizations would send the wrong message to Iran.
That's especially so as the Biden administration ends the U.S. military role
in Afghanistan, and -- at the request of the Iraqi government -- formally
rebrands any remaining combat mission in Iraq to one focused on training,
advising and intelligence-sharing.
"Why take the chance that ... this is misinterpreted in the Middle East?"
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney asked Sherman on repealing the 2002 military
"This has extraordinary ability to be misconstrued as America's pulling
away," Romney added. "The risk is much greater than the benefit."
The Biden administration has cited other legal authority, including Biden's
constitutional war powers as commander in chief, in airstrikes in Syria and
Iraq, and Pentagon strikes on the al Shabab Islamic insurgent group in Somalia,
without seeking congressional approval for each strike.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have efforts under way that would repeal
and replace some standing authorizations of military force, including a 2001
authorization regarding Afghanistan, al-Qaida and the Taliban still cited in
other U.S. counter-terror strikes.
Other legislation introduced by Sens. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat,
Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, would
shift substantially more power on foreign policy and national security to
Congress from the executive branch.
As someone who voted for the 2001 action on Afghanistan after the 9/11
strikes, "I can safely say we never could have imagined it being used as a
justification for airstrikes in Somalia ... or against groups that did not even
exist at the time," said Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman
of the committee. He said it was time for an "honest conversation" on the
current balance of presidential and congressional authority for deciding on
military action. Biden also voted for the Afghanistan resolution, which passed
with no opposition in the Senate.