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Senators Vote to Repeal Military Authorizations for Iraq and Gulf Wars

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After years of debate, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday to repeal the decades-old authorizations for military force dating back to the Iraq and Persian Gulf Wars that granted U.S. Presidents broad parameters in their powers to wage war.

The bill passed on a 66-30 vote with bipartisan support, sending the bill to the GOP-led House where leaders have yet to decide to put it to a vote on the floor.

The legislation, which President Joe Biden supports, would dismantle the so-called authorizations of military force (AUMF) for the 1991 Gulf War and the 2002 Iraq War, each of which handed the White House wide-ranging authority in moving troops and launching combat operations without congressional approval. The AUMFs set relatively few hard limits on the actions a sitting president could pursue, effectively leaving the U.S. in a permanent state of war.

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If the bill becomes law, it will force lawmakers to assume more responsibility in sending troops into harm’s way—just as the Constitution calls for. And yet Congress has not used its constitutional right to declare war since World War II in 1942, instead relying on AUMFs at the request of presidents. The open-ended legal authorizations have drawn increasing scrutiny from Congress over the years, as successive presidents have sent waves of U.S. forces to fight terror groups throughout the Middle East.

The White House says the bill would not have any impact on ongoing U.S. military or counter-terrorism missions. “We urge the House to move quickly as well,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday. “Repealing the 2002 and 1991 AUMF would support the President’s commitments to continuing a strong relationship with our Iraqi partners and to working with Congress to ensure outdated authorizations for the use of military force are repealed.”

The bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana, both of whom say the AUMFs are outdated and problematic. For example, the government of Iraq is now a partner, rather than the adversarial nation that the U.S. invaded and occupied in 2003.

“The entire world has changed dramatically since 2002, and it’s time the laws on the books catch up with those changes,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in floor remarks Wednesday. “These AUMFs have outlived their use. War powers belong in the hands of Congress, and so we have an obligation to prevent future presidents from exploiting these AUMFs to bumble us into a new Middle East conflict.”

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said he supports repealing the 1991 and 2002 authorizations, but not a third sweeping 2001 authorization that allowed troops to pursue Al-Qaeda and its affiliates after the Sept. 11 attacks. The broad language in the 2001 authorization sets no geographic boundaries and has enabled four presidents to fight a global war and send American forces throughout the Middle East and Africa.

An amendment to the bill that would have repealed the 2001 authorization was voted down in the Senate last week in an 86-9 vote.

Asked on Tuesday whether the House would vote on the bill that just passed the Senate, McCarthy was noncommittal.

“Just because a bill passes in the Senate, doesn’t mean it comes directly to the floor,” he said, according to a Politico report.

With reporting by Brian Bennett/Washington.

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Write to W.J. Hennigan at william.hennigan@time.com