House Votes to Repeal 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force

Sailors prepare an F/A-18E Super Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-143 for launch during flight operations aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea, June 5, 2019. (Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Matt Herbst/US Navy)

The House on Wednesday voted to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which the Trump administration has appeared ready to cite justifying armed conflict with Iran should such a conflict arise.

The repeal was included in a nearly $1 trillion spending bill that passed the Democrat-led House 226–203, largely along party lines. The AUMF, passed three days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, authorizes a U.S. president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

Although no Republican lawmakers voted for the spending bill, some have criticized the AUMF in the past, arguing that it gives the president too much power to make war. “It is indisputably clear that the authority given to the executive under the AUMF passed after 9/11 has become too broad and needs updating,” Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) wrote in an op-ed last year.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in April, Paul tussled with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that he does not believe the law authorizes the Trump administration to go to war with Iran.

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“If you want a war in Iran, you have to come to us. It’s the way the Constitution was written,” Paul said. “You do not have our permission to go to war in Iran, and that should be very explicit.”

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“The factual question with respect to Iran’s connections to al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al-Qaeda, they have permitted al-Qaeda to transit their country,” Pompeo responded, saying he would rather leave Paul’s question to lawyers. “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda. Period, full stop.”

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