Washington, DC – House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul spoke on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 256, 2002 AUMF repeal. 

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-Opening Remarks as Delivered-

“Thank you, Madam Speaker. I have said many times before, war should not be on autopilot. I do think this is an outdated AUMF.  

And I do believe that Congress needs to reclaim its war powers under Article I of the Constitution. I also share the desire to repeal the 2002 AUMF, as well as the 2001 AUMF.

But that must be part of a serious process to provide clear, updated authorities against the terrorists who still plot to kill Americans at home and abroad.

I still hope to work toward that end with my respected friend, Chairman Meeks. But repeal and replacement should be simultaneous.

It is confusing to me that we are jamming through a standalone repeal without the basic due diligence. Without consulting the State Department, the Defense Department, the Intelligence Community. Without consulting the Government of Iraq or our coalition partners and allies. 

In the three months since I made that complaint at our markup, the majority has still not scheduled a single briefing. This, in my judgement, is not a serious legislative process for the most serious issues we face – and that is war and peace.

This feels like yet another political effort to undo one of President Trump’s boldest counterterrorism successes: Using the 2002 AUMF to remove Qasem Soleimani from the battlefield.

Soleimani was Iran’s mastermind of terror for decades. He was responsible for the death of more than 600 Americans, and wounded thousands more.  He orchestrated the attack on our Baghdad Embassy. He plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on American soil here in DC. He oversaw Iran’s support for Assad, who killed hundreds of thousands in Syria.

In short, America and the world are much safer with Qasem Soleimani gone.

And while the 2002 AUMF was largely about Saddam Hussein, it also clearly addressed terrorist threats in and emanating from Iraq.

All prior Administrations – Republican and Democrat – have used it for that purpose. 

Today, the biggest threat in Iraq is not Saddam Hussein, we can all recognize that. But it is the Iran-sponsored terrorist groups attacking our diplomats, our soldiers, our embassy, and our citizens.

They cannot be targeted using the 2001 AUMF because they are not associated forces of al Qaeda, the Taliban, or ISIS. But they can be targeted using the 2002 AUMF, as the prior administration did to take out Soleimani, consistent with longstanding practice. 

Last year, the Trump administration ‘strongly oppose[d]’ repeal, saying it would ‘terminate a critical legal authority’ and undermine our defense ‘against ongoing threats from Iran and Iran-sponsored proxies.’ 

The Biden Administration now claims that it does not need the 2002 AUMF for current operations because it has Article 2 authority to use force without Congressional authorization. Is that what we are going to do? Yield to the president now Article 2 authority without any Congressional authorization?

But Madam Speaker, that is precisely what this repeal does. It takes our authority, our Article 1 authorities, away. We are repealing our Article 1 authority and yielding it to the President of the United States.

Telling the President to rely solely on Article 2, in my judgement, is a big step backwards from the war powers reform and reasserting Congress’s Article I powers.

It is also inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution. That law says that the President’s Article 2 powers are limited to responding to an attack on the territory or armed forces of the United States. It does not cover American civilians in a foreign country – such as our contractors, our diplomats, and our embassy who are under attack as I speak in Iraq.

We should not encourage any President to go it alone without Article 1 Congressional authorization.

Finally, today’s vote is not happening in a vacuum. This rushed, stand-alone repeal, without any consultation with the Department of Defense, the Secretary of State, the intelligence community – as Mr. Mast has consistently talked about – sends a dangerous message of disengagement that could destabilize Iraq, embolden Iran, which it will, and strengthen al Qaeda and ISIS in the region.

We would avoid such dangers by taking up a repeal, but a replacement simultaneously.

Real AUMF reform – and I think both sides of the aisle agree, we need to update this AUMF, we need to reform it to the modern-day threats in the region. Saddam Hussein is no longer the threat. But real AUMF reform requires Congress and the Administration working together. And the Chairman has committed to doing this, and I appreciate and trust him. We work well together – but we have to do this.

To work together with the administration to replace the aging AUMF with the updated authorities needed to keep Americans safe from today’s terrorist threats. An updated AUMF that reflects the modern-day threats in the region.   

So, again, I look forward to working together with Chairman Meeks on this and our colleagues. If we are going to be serious about the war powers reform, but this bill is not it. This bill is not responsible, we are not doing this the right way. If we are going to repeal it, let’s update the AUMF to modern day needs and reform it.”

-Closing Remarks as Delivered-

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“Mr. Speaker, I think I laid out our arguments. I think it’s irresponsible to repeal this authority, which still is used to protect our embassy diplomats and soldiers in Iraq against the proxies, Shi’a proxies of Iran. I’m committed to work with the Chairman, to update this outdated AUMF. And I think if there’s any agreement in this chamber, and also on both sides of the aisle, it’s that we need to modernize it to the modern-day threats.  

As I read from the President’s Statement of Administration Policy, the president says, ‘I am committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated authorizations for the use of military force are replaced with the framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.’ 

I agree with the President of the United States. And I think the Chairman does as well. We have to do this, and it’s not going to be easy, but it is time to update this outdated AUMF. I would prefer to have repealed and replaced it with our updated AUMF, but as Brian Mast, a heroic veteran, who lost his legs in battle, said we cannot just repeal this and talk about updating when we haven’t even talked to the Department of Defense, the Secretary of State, the intelligence community, about what is the modern-day threat and what we need to do in congress to exercise our Article 1 responsibilities, that we have a responsibility to do. And not just cede everything to the executive branch under Article 2.

Because the argument is made, this can be done under Article 2. Well, that’s probably true. But are we not abdicating our responsibility in ceding it to the executive branch by doing this?

I would argue that we are.”