The vote was 268-161 with 49 Republicans joining nearly all Democrats in passing the repeal. Backers said the 2002 congressional authorization for war against Saddam Hussein's regime is obsolete and needs to be removed from the books to prevent presidential misuse for unrelated military missions.
"Under the Constitution, it is the Congress who has the sole duty to declare war," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "We must reassert that authority to decide if and when our country goes to war."
President Biden backs the repeal of the Oct. 16, 2002, Iraq Authorization of Military Force, or AUMF, with the White House stressing in a statement that it will not affect any ongoing military activities and would likely have a "minimal impact." The Biden administration said it wants to work with Congress on replacing any outdated AUMFs with "narrow and specific" language to continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., supports the repeal, too, and said this week he will set a floor vote on the matter later this year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will kick-start the process with a hearing on Tuesday to repeal both the 2002 and the 1991 Iraq AUMFs.
Schumer pointed to former President Donald Trump using the 2002 Iraq AUMF as justification for the drone strike attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 as an example of why the measure needs to be repealed to prevent future presidents from digging into the "legal dustbin" to justify "military adventurism."
"There is no good reason to allow this legal authority to persist in case another reckless Commander-in-Chief tries the same trick in the future," Schumer said.
Republicans agreed that it's time to update the nearly 20-year-old war powers authorization, but some said just repealing the AUMF without a replacement undermines national security.
"I'm all for updating this thing, but to … throw it out [without] anything to protect our men and women who are in Iraq today, including the diplomats, is highly irresponsible, it's reckless and it's dangerous," said Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.