Senate lawmakers rejected a proposal to require military authorizations to sunset every two years, declining to attach the rule to a bipartisan bill that would bring an official end to the Gulf and Iraq wars.
The amendment, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would require all war authorizations to expire after two years unless extended by lawmakers through a vote. Lawmakers voted against the proposal with a 19-76 vote, falling well below the 60-vote threshold needed to include the amendment with the full bill.
“By passing my amendment, we have the opportunity to ensure that all Americans have a voice in matters of war and peace. For decades, presidents of both parties have used authorizations for the use of military force to conduct military operations without meaningful oversight or accountability to Congress,” Lee said on the Senate floor. “Would my amendment hinder military planning or weaken our national security posture? To the contrary, it would induce a proactive approach rooted in the present day and time.”
The vote comes as lawmakers debate repealing the authorizations for the use of military force passed in 1991 and 2002 that paved the way for the United States to get involved in the wars. Repealing the authorizations would not disrupt current operations in the Middle East, nor would it prevent the U.S. from initiating a military response to future threats.
The Senate voted to begin debate on the bipartisan bill last week, teeing up the legislation for a final vote in the coming days.
Senators submitted 41 amendments to be considered alongside the legislation, with Lee’s proposal marking the third to be rejected by the upper chamber. Lawmakers shot down two other proposed amendments earlier this week, including one provision that sought to repeal the 2001 war authorization that was initiated in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I offered the U.S. Senate a chance to repeal the 9/11 2001 Authorization for War to reclaim our constitutional power and send a message to the world that we are a nation of peace,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who introduced the amendment. “We should have risen above symbolism and repealed the 9/11 authorization for war and shown our respect for the Constitution, our fealty to the rule of law, and our sincere desire that peace, not perpetual war, be our legacy.”
The vote to disapprove of repealing the 2001 law was not unexpected. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who introduced the full legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, told reporters last week that such a proposal “wouldn’t get the votes.” However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have indicated support for repealing and replacing the 2001 AUMF in future legislation
The Senate is expected to continue debate throughout the week, with Democratic leaders hoping to hold a final vote on the legislation sometime before Easter, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Kaine and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), who co-wrote the bill, told reporters they expect at least 70 senators to vote in favor of the bill when it comes to the floor for a full vote.
“The bigger the margin we get [in the Senate], the better the chances are [in the House],” Kaine told the Washington Examiner last week. “The bipartisan co-sponsors in the House are pretty ideologically broad, so that’s going to be helpful with the speaker.”
The bill would then head to the House, where it’s unclear whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will agree to bring it up for a vote. The Republican leader didn’t support the legislation in the last Congress, but he expressed support for the legislation at a GOP conference over the weekend.
President Joe Biden has also backed the bill, releasing an endorsement ahead of the procedural vote last week.