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As Wars Wind Down, Congress Revisits Presidential Powers


Many Republicans — and some Democrats — are likely to resist.

“We want to keep the 2001 one,” said Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. If the 2001 authorization is maintained, Mr. Inhofe said, “then the 2002 one would be expendable.”

Unlike declarations of a major conflict like World War II, authorizations for use of force are typically intended for limited use for a specific mission or region like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

By repealing the 2002 authorization and spurring debate about the 2001 measure, lawmakers and their supporters hope that Congress will gain new leverage to approve engagements as they come up.

In turn, they believe, presidents will be more politically sensitive to using their powers to carry out military actions absent specific approval from Congress. Mr. Kaine, for instance, said Mr. Biden’s recent airstrikes in Syria, which he ordered without congressional authorization, “show that the executive branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers.”

President Barack Obama more or less dared Congress in 2015 to debate the use of military force abroad, but both parties refused for opposite reasons. Republicans were loath to grant Mr. Obama authority because they disapproved of his foreign policies, and Democrats were still stinging from the vote in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq.

But time and the resident of the White House have shifted the ground. A broad group supports the House bill, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, the only member of the House to vote against the 2002 authorization. She has fought ever since to get rid of it.

The effort to repeal the 2002 authorization has support from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Concerned Veterans for America, as well as VoteVets, a liberal nonprofit group that supports Democrats, and the American Legion, the veterans’ advocacy group.



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