US House Votes to Repeal Historic War Authorizations

US House Votes to Repeal Historic War Authorizations

( – United States presidents and members of Congress have fought over war powers for more than two centuries. The US Constitution clearly states in Article I, Section 8, that Congress has the power “to declare war.” Alexander Hamilton advanced the theory that Section 8 granted all war powers to Congress in Federalist Paper: Number 23 (1787). At the same time, Article II, Section 2, names the President of the United States the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s armed forces. That led to the subsequent theory that presidents could authorize military action.

Those Constitutional provisions require cooperation between presidents and Congress to go to war. However, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, commanders-in-chief have taken actions to wage war without Congressional approval while not actually declaring war.

Over the decades, Congress has tried to close that apparent loophole by approving legislation granting presidents the ability in certain circumstances. Many of those old authorizations remain valid decades after Congress approved them; however, there is an ongoing bipartisan effort to do away with the outdated ones.

The House Votes to Repeal Old War Authorizations

On June 29, the US House of Representatives voted to repeal a couple of decades-old war authorizations. The first one dated back to 1957 and authorized the use of force in Middle Eastern countries when necessary to protect them from countries “controlled by international communism.” The second authorization granted presidential power to use military force as necessary immediately before the 1991 Gulf War.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) gave a rousing floor speech before the vote, declaring passage of the measures an “opportunity to demonstrate” Congress’ intent to reclaim Congressional war powers. The measure passed by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 366 to 46 as part of a 7-bill package.

The 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use of Military Force

A few weeks ago, the House also voted to revoke the 2002 authorization that granted then-President George W. Bush the authority to use US forces as needed to protect American national security interests from Iraq in the shadow of the September 11 attack the year before.

Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump used that measure as part of their justification to use US military forces overseas. Obama used it to authorize the use of force against ISIS in Iran, and Trump expanded Obama’s measure to include “threats to or stemming from” Iran, Syria, or “elsewhere.”

The House bill revoking those earlier two authorizations for the use of military force awaits final action in the Senate. However, if the Senate follows the House’s lead, the measures should pass easily.

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