The Senate voted March 16 to advance legislation that would repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs), formally ending the Gulf and Iraq wars and reasserting Congress’ authority to declare war, which The American Legion has long supported.
The bipartisan legislation advanced by a 70-27 vote, this includes two yes absentee votes. A final passage on the bill will likely be next week.
Following the vote, The American Legion held a press conference with Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., who have led the bipartisan effort to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs. The two senators have raised concerns over the use of military force without congressional authorization and pushed to reassert the role of Congress in authorizing military action.
“I want to thank all of The American Legion leaders who are here and all around the country who have stood strong with us in this effort,” Kaine said. “The support of our veterans’ groups from all across the country and every political inclination has been one of the reasons that we just got a vote that was so bipartisan. It doesn’t happen every day in the Senate. And I’m really proud to be here with Senator Young who has been an absolute fantastic partner in this effort to put together the broadest possible bipartisan coalition that we can, in both the House and the Senate, to declare definitively that the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2002 are over.”
Kaine detailed a few reasons why the repeal is so important.
“The enemy who we declared war against in ‘91 and ‘02 is no more. There is no reason to have a war authorization against a strategic partner (Iraq),” he said. “Iraq was an adversary. Now Iraq is a strategic partner and that message needs to go out that the United States has no permanent enemy. Dropping these war authorizations has a way of sending a very powerful signal that the United States and Iraq working together will be a voice for stability in the region.”
The repeal honors the service of our veterans, who helped make this bipartisan legislation possible.
“We would not be here but for their (The American Legion) support and the support of so many other members of our proud veterans community around the country,” Young said. “I also thank our men and women in uniform for their everyday sacrifices. Today we honor them with this strong bipartisan vote. We are finally, legally, bringing a war to a close today.”
Leading the press conference was American Legion National Security Director Mario Marquez who has served four combat tours in Iraq and retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a sergeant major with more than 31 years of service.
“We applaud the effort and note that it confirms what we’ve known for years – there is a strong bipartisan consensus that it’s long past time to repeal these two authorizations,” Marquez said. “Veterans understand the human cost of war, and we know that the burden of conflict falls heavily on our servicemembers and their families. Millions of servicemen and women answered a call to serve in Iraq willingly and without question and did so without ever knowing a definitive end to their service. However, our force is not built to remain in a perpetual state of war as we have witnessed during what we now call the ‘forever’ or ‘endless wars.’ The American Legion strong supported the repeal of these AUMFs.”
The repeal also reasserts the authority to Congress to send troops into combat, a role Congress has often deferred to the president, Kaine said.
“So often there’s been a Congress, and this is a bipartisan comment, where congresses of both parties under presidents of both parties have been unwilling to exercise the Article 1 responsibility for looking at matters for war, peace and diplomacy because it’s tough politics,” Kaine said. “A war vote is the hardest one you’ll ever make; it could go wrong. So what congresses have tended to do is defer Article 1 responsibility to the president. Support the president when it works out well, when it doesn’t ‘how dare you.’ It’s time for Congress to shoulder this obligation and I think both Senator Young and I view having a vote like this on these outdated authorizations is Congress beginning to take back and occupy a little bit of that Article 1 responsibility.”
Young added that “the Constitution requires it, in fact I would argue this is our most fundamental responsibility as federal legislatures to oversee the authorization of force, the conduct of military operations and ultimately oversee the circumstances under which we bring the men and women, of who we represent, the men and women who raised their right hand and pledged their fidelity to the Constitution and our way of life and their very lives in order to protect it. What we owe (servicemembers) is our duty. Our duty to uphold our oath and fulfill this sacred responsibility.
Young reaffirmed that under the repeal, the U.S. president continues to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces and when there is an imminent threat to the American people, the president can still act. Additionally, the repeal of these authorizations will not affect any ongoing military operations of the United States.
“It is time for Congress to have their voice heard,” Young said. “I believe this will establish a very important precedent moving forward so the people I represent, the people Senator Kaine represents, know that their voice will matter when it comes to important decisions of war and peace.”
Young and Kaine will now work with the House to push the legislation through with bipartisan support, which Kaine shared it has.
In closing, Marquez said “The American Legion calls on Congress to take action, and we urge all our fellow veterans and citizens to join us in this effort. Let us honor the service and sacrifices of our brave servicemembers who fought and died in this war. We thank Senator Kaine and Senator Young for their leadership on this issue.”