By Robin Bravender and John L Micek
Special to the Pittsburgh Current
The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force that allowed the George W. Bush administration to wage war against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq.
Most House Democrats joined 11 Republicans and one independent to approve a resolution to approve the repeal amid concerns about escalating tensions with Iran and complaints by members of Congress that the legislative branch has been sidelined by the executive branch in decisions about waging war.
The final tally was 236-166.
Seven of Pennsylvania’s nine Democratic lawmakers voted in favor of the bill. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, a former Marine, voted no. U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, was marked “non-voting” on the bill. All nine members of Pennsylvania’s Republican Capitol Hill delegation voted against it.
The Capital-Star reached out to Lamb’s office for comment. This story will be updated.
Supporters of the repeal have long portrayed the effort as an attempt to restore Congress’ power. It’s gotten renewed attention after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time of his death in early January.
“For too many years, Congress has allowed administration after administration after administration to sideline us on critical foreign policy matters,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said.
“The American people are sick of perpetual war. And if we don’t do everything in our power to make sure this administration cannot plunge us into another war that we don’t want, then we will have let the American people down,” Engel continued.
Several House Republicans made similar arguments, including some staunch allies of President Donald Trump.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a Trump loyalist who endorsed Democrats’ AUMF repeal effort, noted on the House floor that Hussein died more than a decade ago.
“If we are unable to declare victory and bring our troops home at this time, after Saddam is dead, after his regime has evaporated, after ISIS has collapsed, then no war is ever truly winnable, and every authorization is an authorization for a forever war,” Gaetz said on the House floor.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers penned an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting the repeal of the 2002 AUMF. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, was among its authors.
“This authorization has fully outlived its purpose, given the death of Hussein, regime change and the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, regardless of how one views the merits of that withdrawal,” they wrote.
But the measure adopted Thursday faces opposition from the White House and many Republicans who warn it’ll hinder the executive branch from protecting Americans. Opponents argue that dissolving the AUMF without an adequate substitute it would weaken U.S. national security.
“We should not be repealing current counter-terrorism authorities unless and until we have replaced them with an updated AUMF that clearly allows us to confront the enemies that continue to threaten our nation, our people and our allies,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said.
Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.