Iraqi deaths are estimated in the hundreds of thousands, and nearly 5,000 U.S. troops were killed in the war after President George W. Bush’s administration falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
“This body rushed into a war,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who has pushed for years to repeal the powers.
Senators voted 66-30 to repeal the 2002 measure and also the 1991 authorization that sanctioned the U.S.-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 U.S. military strikes and deployments, and some lawmakers who voted for the Iraq War two decades ago now say that was a mistake.
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 of the United States. Opponents say the repeal could project weakness as the U.S. still faces conflict in the Middle East.
"The fluidity in Iraq and the ambitions of Iran are the two reasons why I'm opposed to repeal at this time," said Senator Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho who sees Iraq as "less than a perfect security partner."
The repeal’s future is less certain in the House, where 49 Republicans joined with Democrats in supporting a similar bill two years ago. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has suggested he is open to supporting a repeal even though he previously opposed it, but Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has indicated he would like to instead replace it with something else. But it is unclear what that would be.
Kaine and Todd Young, R-Ind., 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.
President Donald Trump’s administration cited the 2002 Iraq war resolution as part of its legal justification for a 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani, but the two war powers resolutions have otherwise rarely been used as the basis for any presidential action. About 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and assist and advise local forces.
A separate 2001 authorization for the global war on terror would remain in place under the bill, which President Joe Biden has said he will support.