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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) participates in a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'Long Overdue': House Passes Barbara Lee's 2002 AUMF Repeal

"The fight to end forever wars has been a comprehensive movement from advocates and activists and without their work, we wouldn't be in this position today," the California Democrat said.

Andrea Germanos

Progressive Democrats issued fresh calls to end "forever wars" after the House on Thursday passed legislation to repeal the 2002 war authorization for Iraq.

Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-Calif.) H.R. 256 easily passed in a 268-161 vote. Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia was the sole Democrat to vote against the bill. 

There were 49 Republicans who voted in favor—up from just 11 who voted for the repeal last year. 

In a statement welcoming the vote, Lee noted that, while originally targeting the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the AUMF has repeatedly been used to justify other attacks, including the 2020 assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

"Two decades after casting the single 'no' vote against the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, we have seen every administration since utilize the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs to conduct war far beyond the scope Congress ever intended," she said. 

"Let's be clear," Lee continued. "U.S. military operations carried out under the 2002 AUMF officially concluded in 2011 and this authorization no longer serves any operational purpose. As long as it remains on the books, the law is susceptible to further abuse by any president."

"The fight to end forever wars has been a comprehensive movement from advocates and activists," she said, "and without their work, we wouldn't be in this position today."

According to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the vote was "long overdue."

"That AUMF was based on a lie," the CPC tweeted, "one that resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost, including civilians, U.S. service members, journalists, and humanitarian workers."

The House vote also drew praise from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), which called it reflective of "momentum toward ending the era of ever-expanding war."

"Today's vote shows the power of the people who demand an end to the endless wars," said Diana Ohlbaum, FCNL's senior strategist and legislative director for foreign policy. "Democratic and Republican legislators alike recognize that their constituents want them to take responsibility for deciding if and when our country goes to war."

The vote came days after the Biden administration signaled support for H.R. 256.

The White House released a statement of administrative policy on Monday in which it said that "the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations."

Now, supporters of the repeal resolution are looking to the Senate, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said would vote on such a measure. Legislation from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMF is set for a markup next week, said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

Addressing that effort, Lee said she was "thrilled to see the Senate build on our momentum in the House to end forever wars" and would "continue working with Sens. Kaine and Young to get this legislation across the finish line to President Biden's desk for a signature."

"It's far past time to put matters of war and peace back in the hands of Congress, as constitutionally intended," she said. "We are finally on the cusp of achieving that goal."


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