One Wisconsin Republican broke ranks as the U.S. House votes to limit Trump’s war authority (again)

By: - January 31, 2020 7:26 am
US Capitol pictured at dusk

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Capitol is shown at dusk (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force that allowed the George W. Bush administration to wage war against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. 

Most House Democrats joined 11 Republicans and one independent to approve a resolution to approve the repeal amid concerns about escalating tensions with Iran and complaints by members of Congress that the legislative branch has been sidelined by the executive branch in decisions about waging war. 

The final tally was 236-166. 

Democratic representatives Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind all voted in favor of the resolution. Joe Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman, Bryan Steil voted against it.

The surprise vote from Wisconsin was Rep. Mike Gallagher, who was one of 11 Republicans who voted for the Lee amendment. Role Call took notice of his vote, writing: “Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., a rising GOP national security voice, voted in favor.”

Pocan said on the House floor Thursday, “We cannot allow this president or any president to use an outdated AUMF intended to address Saddam Hussein to wage unauthorized wars against whatever leader they’re upset with on any given day.” 

Supporters of the repeal have long portrayed the effort as an attempt to restore Congress’ power. It’s gotten renewed attention after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time of his death in early January. 

“For too many years, Congress has allowed administration after administration after administration to sideline us on critical foreign policy matters,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

“The American people are sick of perpetual war. And if we don’t do everything in our power to make sure this administration cannot plunge us into another war that we don’t want, then we will have let the American people down,” Engel said. 

Several House Republicans made similar arguments, including some staunch allies of President Donald Trump. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump loyalist who endorsed Democrats’ AUMF repeal effort, noted on the House floor that Hussein died more than a decade ago. 

“If we are unable to declare victory and bring our troops home at this time, after Saddam is dead, after his regime has evaporated, after ISIS has collapsed, then no war is ever truly winnable, and every authorization is an authorization for a forever war,” Gaetz said on the House floor. 

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers penned an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting the repeal of the 2002 AUMF. (The authors were representatives Justin Amash, Ken Buck, Jared Golden, Scott Perry, Dean Phillips and Abigail Spanberger.)

“This authorization has fully outlived its purpose, given the death of Hussein, regime change and the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, regardless of how one views the merits of that withdrawal,” they wrote. 

But the measure adopted Thursday faces opposition from the White House and many Republicans who warn it’ll hinder the executive branch from protecting Americans. Opponents argue that dissolving the AUMF without an adequate substitute it would weaken U.S. national security. 

“We should not be repealing current counter-terrorism authorities unless and until we have replaced them with an updated AUMF that clearly allows us to confront the enemies that continue to threaten our nation, our people and our allies,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee. 

Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday ahead of the House vote: “With Votes in the House tomorrow, Democrats want to make it harder for Presidents to defend America, and stand up to, as an example, Iran. Protect our GREAT COUNTRY!”

The House also voted 228-175 Thursday to approve a separate measure to block funding for military action against Iran. That measure had the support of four House Republicans and one independent.

In this vote, the Wisconsin delegation split along party lines, with Gallagher voting against it along with the state’s three other Republican representatives.

The White House has threatened to veto both measures. 

The House voted earlier this month on another resolution to curtail Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval. 

A similar bipartisan resolution has been introduced in the Senate by Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Kaine said he had 51 votes needed to advance his resolution in the Senate, but the effort has stalled amid the Senate impeachment trial. 

Enacting the resolution would likely require two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to override an expected Trump veto, AP reported

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor Thursday that the two bills approved are “about the Constitution and about the awesome responsibility placed upon the Congress of the United States to determine whether or not we do go to war.” He added that under Democratic and Republican administrations, “this Congress has too often ceded its constitutional responsibility to the president of the United States. The founders would find that very dangerous.” 


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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.