Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Obama Could Bomb Iraq Without Congress Because War Authorization Never Expired

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 10:00 p.m. | President Barack Obama has the authority to wage war in Iraq without going to Congress, because the original use of force authorization remains in effect.

Obama said Thursday he’s “not ruling anything out” in Iraq, as rebels have swept through some of that country’s largest cities and are bearing down on Baghdad.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney appeared to walk back Obama’s comment at his briefing.

“We are not contemplating ground troops. I want to be clear about that. The president … was answering a question about airstrikes,” Carney said.

When asked about getting Congress’s permission to take action, Carney was noncommittal.

“We are in active consultation with members of Congress,” he said.

He demurred when asked directly about the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF). An administration spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, told Yahoo’s Olivier Knox in January “the administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF.”

Hayden emailed CQ Roll Call late Thursday and to reiterate that what she said then remains in effect.

She declined to comment on what authority Obama would have to act if he decided to launch a strike.

“We support it’s repeal for all the same reasons as before, without commenting on decisions the President hasn’t made yet,” she said in an email.

Some Capitol Hill sources believe Obama could still act using other authorities, including the broad war on terror AUMF passed by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, even if the Iraq AUMF is repealed. Obama has used that authority for drone strikes in a number of countries.

A recent Congressional Research Service report says the AUMF in Iraq had no expiration date and has not been repealed. Therefore it remains current law, “although its continued effectiveness is questionable.

“Arguably, the president could rely on [it] to reintroduce forces into Iraq if he determined that Iraq once again posed a threat to U.S. national security.”

But, the report notes, any such decision would likely meet renewed opposition in Congress.

Another military involvement in Iraq would be certain to face resistance from the president’s own party.

Several lawmakers urged caution before taking action, including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

“We got into Iraq without adequate consideration for the consequences,” he said in a Thursday statement. “What is required now is thoughtful consideration of our options, none of which, typically for the Middle East, is obvious or easy. … It’s unclear how air strikes on our part can succeed unless the Iraqi army is willing to fight, and that’s uncertain given the fact that several Iraqi army divisions have melted away. While all options should be considered, the problem in Iraq has not been so much a lack of direct U.S. military involvement, but a lack of reconciliation on the part of Iraqi leaders.”

Just last month, Democrats led by Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey introduced legislation to repeal the Iraq authorization.

“The time to repeal the authorization for use of military Force for Iraq is past due,” Menendez said then. “Our service members completed their mission with distinction and courage when combat operations ceased in 2010 and the U.S. Congress must fulfill its obligation and repeal the AUMF. I voted against the Iraq War, and now, after nearly 5,000 of our bravest American souls paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, we have a responsibility to formally end this state of conflict and rescind this open-ended AUMF for Iraq.”

Other Democrats signed on, including Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Tim Kaine of Virginia.

“Voting against the resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq was one of my proudest moments as a senator,” Boxer said as the bill was introduced. “It is long past time to close this tragic chapter in American history.”

But by Thursday, Boxer appeared to change her tune, saying the United States should “go after” the rebels.

“Much American blood was spilled during the Iraq War and while I believe we should go after ISIS-which poses a threat to the entire world-any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm,” she said in a statement. “Iraq should know that it needs a unity government now or its future will be bleak.

“Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis.”

  • Michael Teigen

    President Obama needs to do what his advisors tell him is best. And Legal.

  • pitch1934

    Hmmm. I wonder, which troops should we bomb? Our troops died there, trained the Iraqi forces there and left tons of equipment there. Then, though they heavily outnumber the enemy, they run. I hope GWB is sleeping well.

  • Mickey Kovars

    Much as I don’t like Obama, Iraq is not his fault. A residual US force left behind might have helped a little, but it’s hard to imagine that it could have influenced current events very much. We should not intervene now — between the Iraqi Shiites, the Kurds and the Iranians, the situation will sort itself out. The country may even break up. But there’s not much we can or should do, and Obama rightly understands that that’s where the American people are also.
    I keep thinking, how could it have been worse to leave Saddam Hussein in power? Bad as he was, he was a counterweight to both Iran and the Islamic jihadists.

  • brunsk42

    Sounds like it’s going be an expensive eff-up on your part for withdrawing all troops and leaving military surplus that we’ll have to be shipped back into that country.. But hey, the taxpayers are footing the bill.

  • Olivia Marina

    Wow what a great post. This is why I read this blog. This is very actionable and something a real business would do! I love it!
    Custom Essay Writing Service

  • Jack Everett

    “News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.” – Bill Moyers: – Speech, May 15, 2005

    These terrorists come out of Syria and are what the CIA Benghazi gun running was all about.

    It’s going to be more war profiteering for the military industrial complex sending weapons to a army that will not fight just to hand over to the enemy. All bombs and drones will do is murder more innocent Iraqi people. If the Iraqi army will not fight they need to get ready to live under an Al Qaeda dictatorship.

    All this American troops and allies lost in this corporate Iraqi war is a disgrace to the free world.

    Cost Of Bush War

    Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq “1,455,590”

    Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America’s War On Iraq: 4,801

    Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 3,450

    Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan Total Cost of Wars Since 2001

    Cost Of War


  • Jack Everett

    Sounds like it’s going to be another embarrassment for you wing nut war mongers.

  • Jack Everett

    Hussein and Qaddafi were both strong arm leaders but they keep control and did not support these terrorist groups. America needs to stop creating puppet leaders in these radical countries and mind it’s own business.

  • Santiago Alemedia

    If Obama can do that, why can’t/wont he send help now to seal the southern border? We are getting overrun with 60,000 border crossings, children munching their way into this country to feed, grow and stay, reporduce.

    It’s an attack–right here. Where is our Commander in Chief? Oh, thinking about Iraq.

  • Avrie

    We’re on the brink of the Middle East imploding causing WW3, where are the leaders? Obama foreign policy is to lead from behind. He puts out forest fires as they erupt & has no real plan. Kraut hammer was on point when he said Obama acts like he just realized he s President. His inaction on almost level leaves America with an uncertain future.

  • Jack Everett

    You need to slow down their chief.Last week it was Russia starting a world war and it’s still all quiet on the Western front! Stop watching boob tube media and start doing some critical thinking.

  • Avrie

    WW3 is an absolute & it will start in the Middle East. If you weren’t so out of touch with reality you’d be able to see that. It’s out of mans hands anyway, God is in control.

  • Jack Everett

    Did you use the Bush hot line to heaven to get this revelation?

  • davidhill

    Let the Iranians intervene and USA and UK keep out. This is a regional situation and only those in the region can sort this situation out long term……. if common sense is used. If the US and UK intervene again the problem will never be solved and will go from one conflict to another. Unfortunately the US and British politicians and their leaders always think that they know best and where as history has shown they never do.

    Therefore again USA and the UK keep out of this and let others solve the problem this time – LONG TERM!,english/

  • Uncle Rex

    In related facts, here are the US deaths in Afghanistan, by year:Bush2001: 52002: 302003: 312004: 492005: 942006: 872007: 1112008: 151Total = 558Obama2009: 3032010: 4972011: 4942012: 2942013: 115Total = 1,703Ref:

  • Walt

    This is outrageous! This regime sets up the conditions that we are in by leaving Iraq unsecured, then claims it doesn’t need approval to go BACK into a foreign country risking more lives. Obviously the regime is not qualified to handle this new development without congressional approval and oversite. By the way, if the regime doesn’t have to consult OUR elected representatives, we don’t need CONGRESS!

  • Walt

    Mickey Kovars: no disrespect here sir, but Mr. Obama announced to the world (and the bad guys) we were pulling out and when. It might have made a difference if the bad guys didn’t know that in advance.

  • SDPike

    Thousands of Al Qaeda combatants are on the march, out in the open and
    fighting a conventional campaign. Big question is, why are they not already being carpet bombed? If your sworn enemy is out in the open, why do we allow him to survive.

  • DAK27

    By what, a few days? It isn’t like we could just pretend we were still there without actually being there. I fail to see how giving an exact date would do more than nothing in ther overall picture.

  • F6a0gaj

    971185 441661Very nice design and style and fantastic subject matter, very little else we want : D. 867099

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