Bipartisan group of Texans in the U.S. House support ending president’s authority to use military force in Iraq

The U.S. Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C., in December of 2020.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed legislation Thursday that would end a president’s authority to use military force in Iraq. While that war wound down years ago, the legislation is a major step toward Congress taking back war powers from the executive branch.

The resolution passed with bipartisan support within the larger U.S. House and among Texans. All Texas Democratic members backed the bill, along with five Republicans: U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, Michael Cloud of Victoria, Lance Gooden of Terrell, Louie Gohmert of Tyler and Chip Roy of Austin.

All other Texas Republicans voted against the bill.

“In Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to declare war not the executive branch,” said Burgess in a statement. “We also have the power to end hostilities by repealing AUMFs.”

“After close to 20 years, it was past time for Congress to review this specific [Authorization of Military Force] and decide whether or not it was still necessary,” he added. “The Members of Congress have vastly changed since 2002. We have a responsibility to the men and women who serve in our military to understand what we are asking them to do and to evaluate if it is still a national security priority.”

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the George W. Bush administration pushed Congress to grant him the authority to use the U.S. military in places like Afghanistan in order to hunt down the culprits.

In 2002, the Bush administration shifted focus to Iraq, arguing in a sustained media campaign that the country’s then-dictator, Saddam Hussein, was housing weapons of mass destruction. Both the House and the Senate authorized Bush in an overwhelming and bipartisan vote to use force in Iraq.

After the 2003 American invasion, those charges proved false, and many members of Congress publicly expressed regret for that vote.

But in a larger scheme, presidents from both parties have used war powers legislation from that era to take actions that were not part of the original intent. Members of Congress, who were hesitant to take responsibility for potential future foreign policy mistakes, rarely objected.

This vote, however, indicates that this is the first step in the legislative branch reasserting itself on foreign policy.

“This is just one AUMF,” Burgess ssaid. “Congress still has a responsibility to review other AUMF’s to determine if those authorizations need to also be repealed.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer indicated that his chamber is expected to take up the legislation next week. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his opposition to repealing the authorization of force.

"Reality is more complicated, more dangerous and less politically convenient than it's supporters believe,” McConnell said, according to Politico. He went on to call the action “reckless.”

A White House statement released earlier this week backed the bill. President Joe Biden voted for the initial authorization in 2003.

“The Administration supports the repeal of the 2002 [Authorization of Military Force], as the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” it stated.

“Furthermore, the President is committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.”

Disclosure: Politico has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.