House to schedule a vote on Barbara Lee’s repeal of 2001 Iraq AUMF

Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna.

After almost two decades of persistence, Rep. Barbara Lee’s quest to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military force (AUMF) that led to the Iraq War, and that she has doggedly opposed over the years, will come to a vote in Congress.

A bill introduced by Lee to repeal the 2001 AUMF will be heard in the House sometime after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. A separate bill by Rep. Ro Khanna to specifically withhold funding for war in Iran without prior congressional approval will also come up for vote during the same week, Hoyer added.

Back in 2001, and just weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Lee was famously the only member of Congress to oppose President George W. Bush’s request for authorizing funding for the war in Iraq.

Lee called it a blank check for endless wars and her belief has been clearly prescient. Military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq continue in some form to this day.

Lee’s bill would repeal the AUMF in time to block any further military excursion potentially sought by the Trump administration in Iran, or anywhere else.

“For far too long, Congress has been missing in action on matters of war and peace. It is long overdue for Congress to reassert its Constitutional authority on the use of force. It is time to end giving blank checks to (any) President to wage endless wars,” Lee said.

“Leaving this outdated AUMF on the books, which has been used to justify the use of force throughout the world, is not only dangerous but irresponsible,” she added.

Bipartisan support for limiting President Trump’s ability to raise war has grown over the past year, in part, following the efforts of Khanna. His resolution last year calling for the U.S. to withdraw military aid for Saudi Arabia in its conflict with Yemen was seen as a stunning rebuke of the president’s power.

Trump’s decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top military general, early this month appears to have ratcheted up concerns among members on both side of the aisle that military action in Iran remains a possibility.

“The future of American foreign policy cannot continue to emphasize military interventionism,” Khanna said Tuesday. “It’s high time Congress reasserted our power of the purse, and made clear to any president that they must come to us first before taking any offensive military action. War should always be a last resort.”

Lee’s vote in opposition of the AUMF 17 years ago is viewed as one of the most courageous decisions made by any member of Congress in recent history. It has also attained an almost mythic quality among East Bay Democrats and progressives at large for her foresight and conviction at the time when most of the country was shaken and angered by the 9/11 attacks.