Senate votes on legislation to repeal 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, formally curtailing use of the Gulf and Iraq War-era authorizations for military operations

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—shared the following statement after the Senate passed bipartisan legislation repealing the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs), ensuring that the Gulf and Iraq War-era authorizations can no longer be used as legal justifications to use force and reasserting Congress’ constitutional role in deciding whether and when to send United States service members into harm’s way:

“The framers of our Constitution did not intend for the president—any president—to have unchecked powers to wage war. That power was bestowed specifically upon members of Congress, because the decision to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way is far too weighty to rest on the shoulders of one person.

“Overly broad interpretations of war authorizations have allowed presidents to stray from that principle and our founders’ vision, and to drag our nation into endless, ever-expanding conflicts. The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs have been stretched beyond recognition by prior administrations, and it is time for Congress to reassert its war powers. The repeal of these AUMFs is a necessary first step in laying the foundation for future, more comprehensive efforts to narrow and specify the use of military force.

“We face real threats around the world, but the American people don’t want endless, ever-expanding war. Sending men and women to risk their lives should be a hard choice, and Congress owes them a careful, considered decision. We need to take war-making off autopilot and put in place a framework that makes Congress do its job, even if it’s difficult.

“Today’s vote is a critical step toward restoring the vision of the Constitution and ensuring Congress, not the President, has the ultimate say in the decision to send our troops into battle. I am grateful the Senate has come together to rein in our endless wars, and I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that Congress fulfills its responsibility in making decisions of war and peace.”

The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs—which passed 32 and 20 years ago, respectively—authorized the use of force for the Gulf and Iraq wars, but Congress has failed to repeal these AUMFs to prevent potential misuse by future presidents.

Senator Merkley has been a longtime advocate pushing to repeal and implement alternative solutions to the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and has consistently supported the repeal of the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs.