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What Is the AUMF? The Repeal of This Policy Could Prevent War with Iran

The House of Representatives passed an appropriation bills package Wednesday to fund several federal departments through 2020, but one of the most notable measures has little to do with money: deep within the Department of Defense funding bill is a provision repealing a 2001 law that gives the president widespread authority to instigate military action.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed just a week after the September 11 terrorist attacks, states that the president may “use all necessary and appropriate force” against any nation, organization, or person he determines aided the 9/11 attacks, or “harbored such organizations or persons.”

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war, but under the AUMF the president can essentially bypass any required congressional approval. This matter has become of particular concern lately as the Trump administration appears to be gearing up for conflict with Iran.

President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018; although other world powers still remain in the agreement, Iran said Tuesday that it would soon break the uranium stockpile limit the deal set into place. This announcement came just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers near the Persian Gulf and Trump sent an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East.

Furthermore, the Trump administration said Wednesday that Iran has ties to Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks. If this is true, the circumstances would allow for Trump to take military action against Iran under the AUMF.

The House’s appropriations bill for the Department of Defense includes a provision that repeals the AUMF, effective eight months after the legislation is passed. The bill’s text states the repeal applies to operations being carried out under AUMF prior to the date of effectiveness as well.

Moreover, the bill explicitly states “nothing in this Act may be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran.”

The appropriations bill was able to pass through the Democratic-led House, but is likely to die in the Republican-led Senate. No Republican representatives voted for the bill.

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