Rare bid to repeal war resolution advanced by U.S. Senate committee

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference urging action on climate change outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed legislation on Wednesday that would repeal congressional authorizations for past wars with Iraq, a significant step in lawmakers' effort to wrest back the power to declare war from the White House.

The vote was 14-8. The "no" votes came from Republicans, although three voted with Democrats in favor of the resolution.

It was the first time in 50 years that a Senate committee had voted to repeal a military authorization. In 1971, Congress voted to end the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution that had led to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

The committee action sent the joint resolution to the full Senate, where it is strongly supported by Democrats and backers say it is expected to garner enough Republican support to win the 60 votes needed for passage.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he planned a vote this year. "The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. An authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021," Schumer said as he opened the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation would repeal Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) passed in 1991 and 2002 for wars against Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Proponents of repeal argued that Iraq's current government should be treated as a U.S. partner, not an enemy.

The House of Representatives backed repeal in June. read more

President Joe Biden's administration supports the repeal, which is moving through Congress as opinion polls show Americans are weary of years of "forever wars" in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere against militant groups. read more

Opponents said repeal would send a message of weakness in a volatile region, especially Iran.

"I really believe that it would be a bad message to send... that we're backing away from this," said Senator Jim Risch, the top Foreign Relations Republican.

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, a leader of the repeal effort, listed 10 reasons to vote yes. Among others, he called repeal a step toward Congress taking seriously "its most solemn responsibility" to send troops into combat, and prevent serious abuses in the future.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Howard Goller

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