US Senate votes to repeal measure that gave go-ahead for 2003 invasion of Iraq | US Senate

The US Senate voted on Wednesday to repeal the resolution that gave a green light for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an effort to return a basic war power to Congress from the White House 20 years after an authorization many now say was a mistake.

Iraqi deaths are estimated in the hundreds of thousands and nearly 5,000 US troops were killed after George W Bush’s administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

“This body rushed into a war,” said the Virginia senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat who has pushed for years to repeal the powers, adding that the Iraq war has had “massive consequences”.

Senators voted 66-30 to repeal the 2002 measure and also the 1991 authorization that sanctioned the US-led Gulf war.

If passed by the House, the repeal would not be expected to affect any current military deployments. But lawmakers in both parties are increasingly seeking to claw back congressional powers over military strikes and deployments and some lawmakers who voted for the Iraq war now say that was a mistake.

“Americans want to see an end to endless Middle East wars,” said the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, adding that passing the repeal “is a necessary step to putting these bitter conflicts squarely behind us”.

Supporters, including almost 20 Republican senators, say the repeal is crucial to prevent future abuses and to reinforce that Iraq is now a strategic partner. Opponents say the repeal could project weakness as the US faces conflict in the Middle East.

“Our terrorist enemies aren’t sunsetting their war against us,” said the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who is recovering from a fall and missed the vote. “When we deploy our service members in harm’s way, we need to supply them with all the support and legal authorities that we can.”

In the House, 49 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a similar bill two years ago. The speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has suggested he is open to supporting a repeal even though he previously opposed it, but Michael McCaul, the chair of the foreign affairs committee, has indicated he would like to replace the resolution.

Kaine and Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, who led the effort together, have said they believe a strong bipartisan vote sends a powerful message to Americans who believe their voices should be heard on matters of war and peace.

Donald Trump’s administration cited the 2002 Iraq war resolution as part of its legal justification for a 2020 drone strike that killed Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian general, but the two resolutions have otherwise rarely been used as the basis for presidential action. About 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and assist and advise local forces.

A 2001 authorization for the global war on terror would remain in place under the bill, which Joe Biden has said he will support.

Some senators opposing the repeal, including McConnell, have raised concerns about recent attacks against US troops in Syria. A drone strike last week killed an American contractor and wounded five troops and another contractor, then a rocket attack wounded another service member. Iranian-backed militants are believed responsible.

Biden has argued that the repeal would not affect any response to Iran. The defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said at a Senate hearing last week US troops are authorized to protect themselves including under article two of the constitution.

The pushback from McConnell comes amid a growing rift in Republican ranks on the US role in the Middle East, with some echoing Trump to argue against interventions abroad. Others are concerned Congress is giving too much leeway to the president.

“I think a lot of lessons have been learned over the last 20 years,” said Young, the Indiana senator.

He said that those supporting the legislation “want to ensure that the American people can hold us accountable, rather than delegating those important authorities to an executive branch and then lamenting the unwitting wisdom of the executive branch if things don’t go well”.

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