Senate Rejects Rand Paul’s Amendment to Repeal 2001 ‘War on Terror’ Authorization

( – As Congress considers repealing a pair of Iraq war authorizations, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted down an attempt by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to abolish another authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) – the one put in place to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The measure was voted down in a 9-86 vote, with libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats among the supporters.

Paul submitted it as an amendment to bipartisan legislation currently under consideration to repeal two Iraq-related AUMFs – the 2002 AUMF that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago this week, and the 1991 AUMF that authorized Operation Desert Storm.

Speaking in support of his amendment, Paul said that if the Senate was serious about “debating the authority of the president to wage war across Africa and the Middle East,” it would repeal the 2001 AUMF (also referred to as the 9/11, “war on terror,” or Afghanistan war AUMF).

“Presidential administrations of both parties have used the 9/11 authorization to justify war in over 20 countries – from Afghanistan to Libya to Syria, to Somalia to Yemen,” he said, adding that Democratic and Republican administrations have argued that the 2001 AUMF has no geographic limits.


“Repealing the Iraq war authorization will end no wars and save no lives,” Paul said. “We’re missing the point here: We’re going to repeal the one authorization they no longer use and leave the one in place that authorizes war everywhere all the time.”

Paul’s amendment would sunset the 2001 AUMF after six months, providing sufficient time, he said, for Congress to debate where and when to authorize the future use of force.

Speaking against the measure, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had testified before the committee just earlier in the day “that the 2001 AUMF is still a vital authority that is being relied on.”

“So we may disagree with how the 2001 AUMF has been maybe stretched by other executive branches, and concerns as to how we will continue to use it,” Menendez said, “but an outright repeal with nothing to replace it – nothing to replace it – is not a sound response that ensures our military has what it needs to execute missions in defense of U.S. interests.”

Paul requested a recorded vote for his amendment, which required 60 votes to pass.

Joining Paul voting in favor were Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Earlier Wednesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Congress to abolish the 2001 AUMF.

Repealing the Iraq-related AUMFs alone “is just not enough,” said Robert S. McCaw, head of CAIR’s director of government affairs department. He called on lawmakers to repeal the 9/11 authorization, and “reject any replacement legislation that would lead to a never-ending ‘war on terror.’”

“Congress should take a bold and courageous step towards ending this destructive cycle and to work towards a foreign policy that is based on diplomacy, human rights, and justice,” said McCaw, whose organization describes itself as the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

In the House, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has introduced bills to repeal the 2001 AUMF multiple times since 2010, but none progressed.

The Senate bill to repeal the two Iraq-related AUMFs (S.316), was introduced by Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

It enjoys strong Democrat support but has divided Republicans. When approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee only two Republican members – Paul and Young – voted in favor, along with all 11 Democrats on the panel.

When the Senate voted a week ago to advance S.316, Republicans were again split, with 19 in favor and 27 opposed. A further procedural vote, on Tuesday, passed with 28 Republicans opposed, and 19 in favor.

The debate, including voting on further proposed amendments, will continue on Thursday.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled his support for repealing the Iraq AUMFs, but not the 2001 AUMF.

“The world is not a safe place,” he told reporters at a House Republican retreat in Orlando, Fla. “I still want to take action – there are terrorists anywhere around the world, and if we’re keeping that one [2001] AUMF and we’re removing another one [the 2002 Iraq war AUMF], that’s personally where I believe I am.”

“I support in keeping the worldwide AUMF, so there’s action that can be taken if there’s a terrorist anywhere in the world,” McCarthy said. “But Iraq, we’re 20 years into it, I don’t have a problem repealing that.”

The House in June 2021 passed a measure to annul the 2002 Iraq AUMF, with 49 Republicans voting for the legislation and 160 against it.


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