Floor Speech on H.R. 256 to Repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002

June 17, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 256 to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the recognition.  I thank the gentleman for his leadership in bringing this important and overdue legislation to the Floor.  Congratulations to you, Mr. Chairman, for being the Chair of the Committee and acting in such, as your Ranking Member has said, striving to act in a very bipartisan way.  That doesn't hold for today, necessarily, but nonetheless, where there is a will there is a way. 

Madam Speaker, nearly twenty years has passed since the Congress passed the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.  And ten years have passed since the formal end of the U.S. military operations in Iraq have ended – Operation Iraqi Freedom, as it's called.  And yet today, ten years later, our nation is still operating under an outdated Authorization of Military Force, which risks of being used, and in some cases has been used, as a blank check to conduct unrelated military operations.  Let me be clear: repealing the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force in no way precludes us, our country, from defending our military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq.  Article II of the Constitution, the 2001 AUMF and the bilateral agreements with Iraq permit this.  But it will prevent a situation when U.S. military personnel are deployed or military operations are conducted without the approval of Congress or the country, for the purposes that are unconnected to the AUMF's original purpose. 

We are here because of the courage of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  No one has been fiercer or more relentless or more principled on this issue.  Thank you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and others who have worked with you over the years.  Thank you, also, to our Foreign Affairs Chair, Gregory Meeks, who has moved this bipartisan priority with both urgency and unity through the Committee.  And we are pleased that this legislation, which has previously passed the House twice, has over 130 cosponsors.  Thank you, also, to Senator Tim Kaine, a long-time leader on AUMF repeal and reform in the Senate, who has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.  

Repealing the 2002 AUMF will defend Congress's Constitutional authorities and our American democracy, system of separation of power.  Under the Constitution, it is the Congress who has the sole duty to declare war.  We must reassert that authority to decide if and when our country goes to war.

This repeal is also possible because of the leadership of President Joe Biden, who understands and has respect for Congress's Constitutional authority.  And he understands the need for this action to keep our troops and the American people safe.  Again, that is our first responsibility: to protect and defend.  The Congress stands in agreement with the Biden-Harris Administration, which has stated that, and I quote, ‘The President is committed to working with the Congress to ensure that outdated Authorizations for the Use of Military Force are replaced with a narrow and specific framework appropriate to ensure that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats.’  

Why has that been elusive for us to come up with a better, more focused plan?  Just for public information, Madam Speaker, when we have tried to come up with a newer, fresher, more appropriate AUMF, we have three challenges.  What is the scope?  What is the Authorization of Use of Military Force for?  Is it for boots on the ground?  Is it for air?  What is it for?  What is the scope that we are giving the authority to the Executive branch to use?  What is the geography?  How far does this extend?  Is this global?  Is it specific to a region?  Important decisions, because some of the threats are, shall we say, unpredictable.  But that doesn't mean what we do here should be unpredictable.  And the third is the timing.  How long does it last?  What is it for?  How far, geography, does it extend?  And how long does that authority last?  So, over time, as we have tried to replace this outdated Authorization of the Use of Military Force, we have run into those disagreements internally, as well as with the White House.  But the more the public knows about our commitment to honoring our Constitutional responsibility, and we work with a president who is not here to undermine that, hopefully we will have that authorization as necessary as we go forward. 

As Members of Congress, the first duty we have is to keep the American people safe.  That includes our courageous men and women in uniform, who sacrifice every day for our freedoms.  To do this, we must pursue a national security strategy and defense policy that is smart, strong and strategic.  And we must look forward to working with the Administration on this vital mission.  With that, I again salute our distinguished colleague from California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, for her persistence and her leadership, our distinguished Chairman, Mr. Gregory Meeks, Mr. Chairman.  And again, grateful for the courteous consideration of this legislation today, although we may not be in complete agreement.  And I urge a strong vote for H.R. 256 to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force and hope that we will have a strong bipartisan vote. 

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.