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Biden could be stripped of war powers as senators look to rein him in after Syria airstrike - as they claim president's ability to launch military attacks leaves the US on a 'permanent war footing'

 Joe Biden could be stripped of war powers after a bipartisan bill was introduced by senators on Wednesday to repeal decades-old authorizations awarded to the US President for the use of military force. 

It comes as Biden is accused of using the authorizations to 'stretch his war powers' after launching his first airstrike in Syria last week without congressional approval.

The bill was also introduced just hours after an Iraqi military base housing US troops and civilian contractors was hit by rocket attacks, Politico reported. 


The measure, led by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Todd Young, would repeal 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq 

It cites the 'strong partnership' between Washington and the government in Baghdad. 

Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to authorize war but it has largely abdicated the authority. 

Joe Biden could be stripped of war powers after a bipartisan bill was introduced by senators on Wednesday to repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force

Joe Biden could be stripped of war powers after a bipartisan bill was introduced by senators on Wednesday to repeal decades-old authorizations for the use of military force

It comes as Biden is accused of using the authorizations to 'stretch his war powers' after launching his first airstrike in Syria last week without congressional approval. Pictured the Islam Qala border crossing and destroyed tanker trucks in February

It comes as Biden is accused of using the authorizations to 'stretch his war powers' after launching his first airstrike in Syria last week without congressional approval. Pictured the Islam Qala border crossing and destroyed tanker trucks in February

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is leading the measure. He has claimed the authorizations allow the president to 'continue to stretch its war powers', as pictured above

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is leading the measure. He has claimed the authorizations allow the president to 'continue to stretch its war powers', as pictured above 

Republican Senator Todd Young is also leading the introduction of the bill

Republican Senator Todd Young is also leading the introduction of the bill

Those AUMFs - and a third one, from 2001, for the fight against al Qaeda - have been used to justify strikes by both Democratic and Republican presidents since they were passed. 

They have been criticized, however, as being used to justify years of attacks in the Middle East and for allowing 'forever wars' that have kept US forces fighting overseas for decades.

The senators introduced the measure as an effort to shift back the authority to declare war to Congress from the White House. 

They are focused on the measures directly focused on Iraq and say it will not impact ongoing US operations to counter ISIS.


'Last week's airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch—regardless of party—will continue to stretch its war powers,' said Senator Kaine in a tweet.  

'The 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force serve no operational purpose, keep us on permanent war footing, and could allow future misuse.' 

'Reintroduced my push to repeal the outdated 1991 and 2002 #AUMF against Iraq,' added Young. 

'Congress has been operating on autopilot when it comes to our essential duties to authorize the use of military force.

'The fact that authorities for both of these wars are still law today is illustrative of the bipartisan failure of Congress to perform its constitutionally-mandated oversight role.'

Members of Congress from both parties have sought repeatedly to repeal the AUMFs in recent years, but efforts have fallen short.

It is hoped that the recent Syria strike will give life to the efforts. 

Republican Senator Todd Young
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine

The measure, led by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine (right) and Republican Senator Todd Young (left), would repeal 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, citing the 'strong partnership' between Washington and the government in Baghdad

Senator Kaine has called on the Biden administration to support the bill

Senator Kaine has called on the Biden administration to support the bill

The other sponsors of the new measure include Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth, Chris Coons and Dick Durbin, as well as Republican Senators Mike Lee, Chuck Grassley and Rand Paul.

Kaine blasted the war authorities as 'unnecessary' as he called on the Biden administration to support the measure. Biden had previously criticized Trump for using the authorizations. 

'It's time to show the American people that the Article I and II branches can work together on issues as serious as war,' he wrote. 

The bill's introduction came after Biden's administration on February 25 carried out air strikes against facilities belonging to Iranian-backed militia in Syria that renewed questions about whether a president should be able to conduct such actions without congressional approval.

Lawmakers lamented that Congress had not been consulted before the attack or properly notified. 

They have still not been completely briefed on the strikes, according to Politico.  

The airstrike reportedly killed 22 Iran-backed fighters in an apparent response to rocket attacks against US targets in Iraq that injured American troops and killed a contractor on February 15. 

Biden said in a letter to congressional leaders that they had been ordered in 'self-defense'. 

Authorities said the US airstrike last week in Syria targeted structures belonging to two Iranian-backed militias in Al Bukamal (as shown in the map above)

Authorities said the US airstrike last week in Syria targeted structures belonging to two Iranian-backed militias in Al Bukamal (as shown in the map above)

A close up view of buildings at an Iraq-Syria border crossing before airstrikes

A close up view of buildings at an Iraq-Syria border crossing before airstrikes

The US dropped seven 500-pound JDAMs (file image above) on seven targets on a crossing used by the militia groups to move weapons across the border

The US dropped seven 500-pound JDAMs (file image above) on seven targets on a crossing used by the militia groups to move weapons across the border

Yet senators such as Chris Murphy from Connecticut claimed that they had still to be convinced. 

'I still need to be convinced that any president has the authorization required to take a retaliatory strike, especially outside of Iraq,' he said. 

The airstrike was conducted by two Air Force F-15E aircraft which launched seven 500-pound JDAMs, precision guided munitions, Military Times reported. 

John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said the strike fully destroyed nine facilities and 'functionally destroyed' two others.

The US targeted a crossing used by the militia groups to move weapons across the border. Authorities said the airstrike targeted structures belonging to two Iranian-backed militias in Al Bukamal.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend US personnel in the first military actions he has authorized as Commander-in-Chief.

'The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks,' she said.

'You can't act with impunity. Be careful,' Biden added when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send with the airstrikes. 

Biden warns Iran: 'You can't act with impunity. Be careful'
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Democrats said the airstrikes were done without authorization from lawmakers, while Republicans were more supportive.

Kaine was among the first to speak out stating: 'Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances'. 

And Sen. Murphy said 'retaliatory strikes not necessary to prevent an imminent threat'.

House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith has argued that Biden's move was justified to defend US personnel.

'We were legitimately in the region to protect us against a threat from ISIS that was in fact attacking Americans,' he said. 

'While in the region protecting against that threat, militias lobbed a bunch of missiles at us. And we shot back. If that isn't classic Article II self-defense, then I don't know what is.' 

Yet even he believes that the authorizations should be repealed.  

The airstrike comes after repeated tensions between Iran and the Trump White House over the previous four years which reached a peak following Qassem Soleimani's killing in early 2020. 

While the strike could be the first retaliatory move by the US following attacks earlier in February, it appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

Also a decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq would give the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a February 15 attack that wounded Americans.     

The backlash against Biden comes as he was also facing criticism for failure to take further action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a US intelligence report last week claimed he had given the green light for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.   

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