Progressives and House Freedom Caucus members form rare alliance over repealing Iraq authorizations

Chip Roy and Barbara Lee

Progressives and House Freedom Caucus members form rare alliance over repealing Iraq authorizations

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A formidable but rare alliance is uniting to repeal decadeslong war authorizations: House progressives and the House Freedom Caucus.

While the two groups usually disagree on most policy areas, members are setting their sights on repealing the 1991 and 2002 war authorizations in Iraq, a measure that already has the support of President Joe Biden. The authorizations permitted the use of military power that allowed the United States to get involved in the Middle Eastern wars in Iraq and the Gulf.

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Ending Iraq war powers “should come to the floor as soon as possible,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a former Progressive Caucus co-chair who’s advocated for a decade to repeal the war powers. “And our Republican colleagues are also working to try to ensure that this comes to the floor as soon as possible. It’s way past time to get this done.”

Lee was the only House member to vote against the post-9/11 war authorization during former President George W. Bush’s administration, for which she endured severe criticism.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), one of Lee’s Republican allies on repealing war authorizations, said the decision to repeal falls under the “question of institutional power.”

“I think there’s a sense around here, on both the Left and the Right, that we’ve abdicated too much of that — and not just in recent Congresses but honestly probably going back decades,” Cole told Politico.

Biden promised to sign the repeal, which the Senate passed in a bipartisan vote on March 29, 66-30. Repealing the authorizations would not disrupt current operations in the Middle East, and it does not prevent the U.S. from initiating a military response to future threats. The legislation also does not cover the 2001 AUMF initiated in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

McCarthy said the legislation has a “good chance” of coming to the floor for a vote. However, there might be some roadblocks before then. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) wants to “repeal and replace” the authorizations, which could derail the decadeslong effort to do away with the war powers provisions.

It would likely be a no-go for both Democrats and Republicans and postpone the process even longer.

“There’s nothing to replace it with,” Lee said. “That argument and strategy is muddying the water.”

If the bill does not head to the floor through committee, a majority of House members can use a “discharge petition” and force the measure onto the floor, a scenario likely to succeed given the bipartisan support for the repeals.

However, some progressive leaders fear that strategy could backfire and destroy what little bipartisan consensus there is.

“The discharge petition is not the way to get bipartisan support,” Lee said. “We have the votes. So this should come to the floor as soon as possible.”

This is just one of several areas emerging in the rare alliance between the Freedom Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which could cause other headaches for McCarthy.

The groups’ members are beginning to show unlikely camaraderie over their wishes to reconstruct government surveillance powers and limit defense spending.

“Sometimes the political spectrum is more of a circle than a line. At some point, you might have sometimes-differing motives or different ranges, but you end up [at] the same conclusion, and that’s OK,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), a Freedom Caucus member. “That’s kind of how our system works.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Progressive Caucus chief, and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) are jointly raising concerns over government surveillance laws ahead of a reauthorization deadline at the end of 2023.

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Jayapal said the Left and the Right frequently align “on issues of war, civil liberties, and privacy.”

“We do have things that we see eye to eye on,” she said. “And I think we’re always going to look for those opportunities.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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