Amid Tensions in Gulf, U.S. Lawmakers Call to Repeal 'Endless War' Law

Joint group of Democrats and Republicans say 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is too broad, voicing concerns it could be used to go to war with Iran

AV-8B Harriers return to the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge on the Arabian sea, May 18, 2019
Petty Officer 2nd Class Megan An

Rising tensions between the United States and Iran prompted some Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to call for the repeal of a law that presidents have used for two decades to justify U.S. military action around the world.

Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat, and Thomas Massie, a Republican, held a news conference with other members of the House of Representatives to call for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed days after the September 11 attacks on New York on Washington.

A House subcommittee on Tuesday approved an amendment to a defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF.

The lawmakers said that, after nearly 18 years, it was time for Congress to repeal and replace the law, stressing that it was too broad from the start and saying it definitely should not be used to justify war with Iran.

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Washington and Tehran have this month escalated rhetoric against each other, following President Donald Trump's decision to try to cut Iran's oil exports to zero and beef up of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization, said it has been used "as a blank check for endless war by three administrations."

When she voted against the 2001 AUMF, Lee said it gave too much leeway for presidents to pursue military action. "It was so broad, it covered almost every military operation in perpetuity," she said.

Lawmakers have expressed fears that Trump might order an attack on Iran. Top administration officials sought to tamp down such concerns at classified briefings on Tuesday for every member of Congress at which they also described what they see as a heightened threat from long-term rival Tehran.

Massie said backers of the effort to repeal the 2001 AUMF simply want Congress to reclaim its constitutional right to declare war. "This is not a partisan issue," he said.