White House ‘Committed’ to Working With Congress to Check Presidential War Powers After Syria Strike

March 6, 2021 Updated: March 9, 2021

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that the Biden administration is “committed” to working with Congress to replace the current presidential war power with “a narrow and specific framework,” to ensure the government both protects Americans and stops endless wars.

“We are committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars,” Psaki tweeted.

Psaki also praised Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who co-sponsored a bill to repeal the current presidential war power, saying that Kaine has been a leader on questions of war powers, helping to build a strong bipartisan coalition that understands the importance of Congress’s constitutional rights.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on March 4, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The commitment responds to the bill reintroduced on Wednesday by Kaine and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), repealing the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq. The senators were troubled by President Joe Biden’s unilateral directive of an airstrike in Syria last week, retaliating against Iran-supported militants who have attacked U.S. assets in Iraqi military bases.

“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers. Congress has a responsibility to not only vote to authorize new military action but to repeal old authorizations that are no longer necessary. The 1991 and 2002 AUMFs that underpinned the war against Iraq need to be taken off the books to prevent their future misuse,” Kaine said on Wednesday.

The Senate passed a similar resolution last year intended to require then-President Donald Trump to be authorized by Congress before taking any military action against Iran. It was vetoed by Trump.

Legislators from both sides of the aisle have also called for an end to the war in Iraq, and to curb the presidential power to continue military action in the country. It would not necessarily limit Biden’s authority to use force in other Middle Eastern countries, however.

“Congress has a responsibility to not only declare war but also to bring conflicts to a close. … Closing out U.S. authorizations for war in Iraq is long overdue, and Congress owes it to the men and women who sacrificed blood and treasure to declare victory and come home,” co-sponsor Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), Chris Coons (D-Del), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), and Rand Paul (R-Ky) also co-sponsored the bill.