National Security & Defense

Biden Supports New War Powers Vote in Congress

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 2, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Joe Biden plans to work with Congress to repeal the war authorizations behind U.S. military operations around the world over the past 20 years and to negotiate a new one that would curb the open-ended nature of the country’s foreign wars, according to a new report.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement to Politico that the president wants to, “ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.”

The announcement comes after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Tim Kaine (D., Va.) and Todd Young (R., Ind.), introduced a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and another passed in 1991 before the first Iraq War. It is the first time the president had publicly supported ending the resolutions passed by Congress decades ago.

“Tim Kaine has been a leader on questions of war powers throughout his time in the Senate and has helped build a strong bipartisan coalition that understands the importance of Congress’s constitutional prerogatives,” Psaki said in her statement.

A spokesperson for Kaine said the senator “is already in bipartisan discussion with his colleagues and the administration.”

“Sen. Kaine believes that President Biden, who has a deep understanding of both congressional and executive responsibilities, is in a unique position to help America restore balance in how we make decisions about war and peace,” the spokesperson told Politico.

Former President Barack Obama also hoped to replace the war authorizations but ultimately could not reach a bipartisan agreement on the specific outlines.

The proposed measure follows bipartisan anger over the president’s orders to launch retaliatory airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria last week without first asking for congressional approval, reigniting existing concerns that Congress has handed over its constitutional role in declaring war and authorizing military operations.

However, though there has been renewed focus on the outstanding war authorizations, the Pentagon did not cite the authorizations as legal justification for the Syria strikes. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby instead noted Article II of the Constitution, which grants the commander-in-chief  “not only the authority but the obligation to protect American forces,” and Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which gives members the right to self defense.

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