Defense Bill To Be Passed By Senate Seeks To Reverse ‘Zombie’ War Powers

“I have spoken with Senator Schumer about it. [and] I had promised a full vote on this at some point,” Kaine told POLITICO. “Obviously he wants to do it in a way that doesn’t consume the maximum amount of time, so we’re trying to figure that out.”

Kaine said including the repeal in the defense policy bill or holding a separate vote in connection with the 20th anniversary of the vote that preceded the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime are possibilities.

But with control of the Senate heading into the midterms, advocates are looking to dwindling opportunities to pass anything as Democrats scramble to enact their latest legislative priorities. The defense bill is one of the few major pieces of legislation to become law each year, making it a magnet for other efforts.

A review of war powers would likely face far greater odds in a GOP-led Senate. minority leader Mitch McConnell has opposed efforts to remove the 2002 authorization from the books, calling the move “reckless” when the House voted to do so last year.

The House voted to repeal several old war powers: the 2002 Iraq War authorization, a measure enacted in 1991 for the Gulf War, and a 1957 Cold War-era resolution for military force in the Middle East, as part of your own defense bill with little controversy in July.

A key problem for the Senate is finding the time to vote. Congress has just entered its long summer recess and will be out of session for much of the next few months with elections just around the corner. Before the recess, Senate Democrats had been preoccupied with passing their top priority: a party-line tax, climate and health care package, which finally passed Sunday.

A Schumer spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Democratic leadership’s voting plans. Schumer pushed for a vote on Kaine and Young’s proposal as part of the Senate defense bill last fall, but the vote was stymied by a partisan dispute over the amendments.

Young said he last met with Kaine on his war powers proposal about a month ago, but agreed that the defense bill may be the most viable target to attach to the AUMF repeal.

“Senator Kaine assured me that we will probably have a vote between now and the end of the year,” Young said in a brief interview. “I agree that the NDAA is the most logical vehicle, but frankly we will hitchhike wherever we can reach it. It’s a busy schedule.”

Critics of the sweeping presidential war powers granted in the wake of 9/11 want to withdraw the Iraq war authorization and other old laws as a down payment on a larger and far more politically fraught reform that restores lawmakers’ authority to authorize military. strength.

“The further back you go, the more absurd it seems to leave these zombie clearances in the book,” Young said.

Keeping old authorizations on the books, advocates contend, makes them ripe for abuse by the executive branch. Former President Donald Trump cited the 2002 AUMF as part of his administration’s legal justification for the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in 2020, a move that revived debate on Capitol Hill over presidential war powers.

Kaine and Young have pushed for separate legislation to repeal the Iraq War resolution, as well as the 1991 Gulf War authorization, which clarified the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support last August. The measure would likely get the 60 votes needed to advance on the full Senate floor.

The House has voted multiple times to roll back old war powers, including in annual defense appropriations and political legislation, as well as in stand-alone bills that passed last year.

Finding time on the floor has already proven difficult. The response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has engulfed foreign policy deliberations. The last weeks of July and the first days of August were filled with efforts to cement a reconciliation agreement, ratify a treaty to admit Sweden and Finland to the NATO alliance, and push for an expansion of veterans’ health care stemming from exposure to burn pits.

“The last time we talked about it, he said, ‘I really want to do it, I just have to find a way so it doesn’t block a lot of other things from happening,'” Kaine said of his conversations with Schumer.

That may make the broader defense bill an attractive option, since the House bill already includes repeal. But it is not without risk after the Senate failed to pass its own bill last year.

President of the Senate Armed Services Jack Reed (DR.I.) said incorporating the repeal into the NDAA “makes sense,” although no definitive plans have been made.

Senators will have to rush to pass their own defense bill, regardless of the war powers debate.

Reed aims to pass his legislation in a short window in September when Congress returns from its summer recess. Even then, the NDAA may compete with efforts to prevent a government shutdown.

Senate Republicans are already pressing Schumer to quickly introduce a defense bill. The Senate failed to pass its own bill late last year after Republicans blocked the measure in a dispute over amendment votes, leaving House and Senate military leaders with the task of reaching a separate compromise.

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