Dems push Biden on returning war-powers authority to Congress

As a senator, Biden objected to George H.W. Bush removing Manuel Antonio Noriega from power in Panama and voted against the 1991 Persian Gulf War authorization. He criticized Bill Clinton for sending forces to Haiti and Kosovo without congressional buy-in. And when George W. Bush talked about bombing Iran in 2007, Biden, then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Boston Globe: “The Constitution is clear: Except in response to an attack or the imminent threat of attack, only Congress may authorize war and the use of force.”

The House launched this year’s debate with a measure from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to repeal the 2002 authorization, which Congress passed to enable military operations against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. In the years since, presidents have used it to justify operations against terrorist groups there and in defense of the 2020 strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran in Baghdad…

Engineering a new authorization to address threats from nonstate terrorist actors will be a complicated undertaking. Experts have advised lawmakers to make sure any new authorizations “sunset” every couple of years, to give them a built-in opportunity to review their effectiveness. They have also urged Congress to better define “hostilities” under the War Powers Act, to close windows through which presidents have tried to avoid involving Congress in decisions about shifting military operations.

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