Explainer-What are the "zombie" war powers Congress may repeal?

  • World
  • Tuesday, 28 Mar 2023

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen in the morning sun in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress is voting this week on legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs, against Iraq, lawmakers' latest attempt to reassert Congress' role in deciding whether to send troops into combat.

Here is what to know about these war authorizations.


Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to declare war. But to allow a president to respond to a threat, the Senate and House of Representatives can pass an AUMF.

The two that may be repealed this year were approved in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait and in 2002, ahead of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. They have been labeled "zombie" authorizations because they never expire but their original purpose no longer applies.

Supporters say the AUMFs should be repealed because Iraq is not a U.S. adversary and because they could pave the way for future destabilizing military action that has little to do with the original intent of the authorizations.

Some criticized Republican then-President Donald Trump's use of the 2002 Iraq AUMF for the 2020 killing of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who was in Iraq but whose targeting was not connected to the earlier war.


Members of Congress are not - for now - targeting a third AUMF, which passed days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The measure authorized then-President George W. Bush to target al Qaeda for the assault on New York and Washington.

Because that AUMF also does not expire and was not limited by geography, it has been used by both Republicans and Democrats to justify military action around the globe.

But lawmakers said the ongoing campaign against militant violence is too important to repeal the 2001 authorization before a replacement is written.

WILL THE REPEAL PASS THIS TIME?Congress has tried and failed to repeal AUMFs repeatedly over the past 10 years.

Backers say things are different this time, partly because it has been 20 years since the last Iraq war began, and because Democratic President Joe Biden, a former senator, has said he supports the repeal and does not believe it will harm national security.

The measure has both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors in both the Senate and House. It is expected to easily pass the Democratic-led Senate after procedural votes were overwhelmingly in favor.

Its fate in the Republican-led House is less clear, given that support for AUMF repeals in the past has been much stronger among Democrats than Republicans.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said this month there was a strong chance the House would pass a bill, but that it must go through committee review before the full chamber would vote.

That could delay repeal. Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said he does not think the AUMFs should be repealed until a new AUMF has been written to replace them.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Don Durfee and Jonathan Oatis)

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In World

'Normal' Nigel Farage resonates with UK seaside voters
Intoxicated teen vanished in ‘pitch-black’ field, US cops say. Drone saved his life
New Zealand will increase its military contribution to N. Korea sanctions monitoring
Two 12-year-olds steal teacher’s car, get caught when parents track iPad, US cops say
Navy captain shared ‘erotic’ photos of his ex while impersonating her online, US feds say
Self-driving Tesla crashes into police car as driver uses phone, California cops say
Oil depots on fire in Russia's Rostov region after drone attack
Brides and grooms are cracking down on wedding guests and publicly shaming those who don’t comply with their gift registries and dress codes
Banning social networks may not be the answer to improving young people’s mental health, researchers say
US health official: Put tobacco-style warnings on social media

Others Also Read