Some Senate Republicans Do Not Want McCarthy To Push Iraqi War Authorization Repeal

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 03/29/2023
Leading Senate Republicans are cautioning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) not to vote on a Senate-passed measure removing authorization for the use of military action in Iraq without making significant modifications to it, exposing the widening GOP rift on national security.

McCarthy is faced with a difficult choice after 18 Republican senators joined 45 Democratic senators and three Independents who support the Democratic Party to vote on Wednesday to send the House a resolution repealing the war authorizations that Congress passed in 1991 and 2002.

Republicans have been divided internally over whether to repeal the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), which some see as being a part of a larger conflict within the party over American involvement in upholding international law, future defense spending, and support for the conflict in Ukraine.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who voted to revoke the authorization for the use of military action in Iraq, stated that the fight "actually takes place within the Republican Party, and I think the majority of Republican voters are for less intervention and less spending overseas."

The majority of Senate Republicans, in Paul's opinion, who voted against removing the military authorization and in favor of funding for the conflict in Ukraine are not representative of GOP voters.

"I think probably 60% to 70% of Republicans at home are not for that," he said, "if you start to question where's the caucus for continuous money or unrestricted funding — so it seems — for Ukraine."

Paul emphasized that the two front-runners for the GOP presidential candidacy in 2024—former President Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—are "skeptical" of measures that would increase US engagement abroad. Yet, he claimed that Senate Republican leaders continue to be ardent supporters of extending US military influence throughout the globe and backing the conflict in Ukraine.

Republicans are sharply divided on reducing defense spending as part of an agreement with Democrats to reduce the deficit. McCarthy stated to reporters last week that he had no objections to removing the authorizations, but since then, Senate Republicans, especially Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have put pressure on him (Ky.).

If the Senate bill is put to a vote unchanged, it will probably pass the House. Between a third and half of House Republicans may also support it, and it is anticipated that the vast majority of House Democrats will vote in favor of it.

That would split Republicans in the House, just as it did in the Senate, giving Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and other Democrats a political victory.

"As we all know, the American people are sick and tired of the Middle East's perpetual battles. Every year that these AUMFs remain in effect, future administrations have another opportunity to abuse them, Schumer argued on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The bill, which McConnell claimed would make it simpler for Iran to push U.S. troops and personnel out of Iraq and Syria, was defeated by a majority of Republican senators on Wednesday.

He stated in a statement on Tuesday that "our terrorist foes aren't sunsetting their war against us." Tehran wants to force us to leave Syria and Iraq. Why should Congress simplify that? ”

Some Republicans who opposed the proposal claim it would increase the risk of attack on American troops.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated that rather than outright removing the war authorizations, "probably 70% of our conference wanted to replace [the war authorizations] with something" to dissuade Iranian aggressiveness in the area.

According to Graham, "no matter how well-intentioned you are here, it's going to be seen as we're abandoning" Iraq, which would support the claim made by China and other rivals that the United States is an untrustworthy friend.

In its current form, it's a very dangerous proposal, he said, adding that it would "most surely" put American troops in danger. "I hope the House will amend this drastically," he said.

Graham proposed a change to the legislation that would have permitted the use of force against Iraqi militias that were supported by Iran. On a vote of 36 to 60, it was defeated.

Until President Biden or a future administration certifies that Iran has stopped sponsoring terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, McCarthy should change the measure, according to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Without that modification, Rubio cautioned, "Iranians who are not familiar with our form of governance would see this as Congress directing the President to withdraw from Iraq and Syria."

They will see that as permission to intensify their attacks against us, he warned. Rubio's amendment was rejected by a vote of 32 to 63.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that the House should amend the legislation to explicitly authorize Biden to use military force against Iran's allies in Iraq.

He should take my amendment into account, he remarked. The issue is that the Biden administration, and President Biden in particular, have been so ineffective in dealing with Iran and other of our enemies.

Biden, according to him, is "ready to subordinate every other foreign policy priority" in order to reach a new nuclear agreement with Iran, he claimed. The commander in chief has the legal authority to take action to defend servicemembers and to avert an assault or an impending attack, he added, repeating the Article II criteria in his proposal.

Cruz's proposal was defeated 41 to 55. Paul, though, told The Hill that McCarthy should approve the revocation of the authorisation for the use of armed action as is.

I don't know what we can do if we can't put an end to a conflict that has already ended, he remarked. "Show some willpower. His caucus is largely in favor of it. With 60 to 70 percent of the vote, I believe it will pass. The bill will have to "go through committee," but McCarthy told reporters last week that it had "a good chance" of being brought to the floor.

John Thune (S.D.), the Senate Republican whip who is filling in for McConnell as he recovers from a concussion at home, said he is unsure of McCarthy's plans. "I have no idea what they intend to do over there. They could definitely make it better. Many of the amendments that were defeated here would make good adjustments to the policy, according to him.

Attacks on American military bases in Syria by allegedly Iranian drones, according to Thune, "were a reminder of the risks that we confront in the world, particularly in that region, from Iranian-backed militias and terrorists," he told reporters on Tuesday.

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