On June 17, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Forty-nine Republicans joined all but one Democrat to end the nineteen-year-old authorization that Congress gave to President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. The vote on H.R. 256, which was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), is a welcome step in a years-long campaign to retrieve some of the warmaking powers Congress has ceded to the executive branch over the past two decades. Article One of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but authorizations like the 2002 AUMF effectively cede that role to the president. If the repeal passed in the Senate, the Iraq-specific authorization could no longer be used by any president to justify future military operations.
But the vote to repeal the 2002 AUMF will not by itself solve the problem of executive overreach. It will not even eliminate the misuse of AUMFs. The 2001 AUMF, passed three days after 9/11 and still on the books, is still the one presidents most often use to justify military action. This earlier AUMF allows the president to wage war against anyone who, in the president’s accounting, “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the twenty years since, the authorization has been used to justify military operations and targeted strikes in at least nineteen countries, including the Philippines, Kenya, Somalia, and Georgia.