With the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq just days away, a bipartisan group of senators has been working on an effort to repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) against the country. Congress had originally passed the authorizations unanimously for the wars waged by George H.W. Bush and then George W. Bush, the latter of which caused an estimated one million deaths.

In recent years, the 2003 invasion has become increasingly shunned by Republican leaders, particularly after Donald Trump instigated his populist America First takeover of the party. Many of Trump’s congressional allies have cited the war in their denunciations of old-guard Republicans. But the party apparently has yet to rid itself of its neo-conservative roots, as the majority of GOP senators voted against a Thursday measure to debate revoking the AUMFs.

The measure still passed with help from 19 Republicans, including Sens. Josh Hawley and JD Vance, self-styled “America First” lawmakers; Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two of the more moderate Republicans in the chamber; and Sen. Rand Paul, a quasi-libertarian. Every Democratic member voted in favor of the measure.

Paul, perhaps the most vocal anti-interventionist senator in the GOP, made known his displeasure with his colleagues’ votes. “It should be easy to remove,” he said, according to Insider. “But some Republicans will vote to continue a war that’s been over for 20 years.”

Among the Republicans who opposed opening the debate for the bill were Sen. Mitt Romney, a leading Trump critic who has been known to join b; Tom Cotton, a conservative who has aligned themselves with Trump’s nationalist brand; and Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, both of whom serve as a bridge between the hawkish establishment and Trump.

In comments to Insider, Romney defended his nay vote by arguing that AUMFs are still needed today. “The world continues to be a troubled place, and I don’t want to remove any of the authorities that have been, or may be, relied upon to defend our interests,” he said. This feeling was shared by Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican. “I don’t want to do anything that reduces the President’s ability to kill somebody like Soleimani,” Scott told Insider. “That’s probably what I care about the most.” And Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican who also voted against, told the outlet that he would only support revoking the AUMFs “when conditions are different in the Middle East than they are right now,” a sentiment often repeated in Washington to justify the US military’s constant presence in the region.

The White House, though, supports the bill and said Thursday that its passage would “have no impact on current US military operations” and serve as a symbolic gesture of the administration’s “commitment to a strong and comprehensive relationship with our Iraqi partners.” 

“President Biden remains 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 more appropriate to protecting Americans from modern terrorist threats,” the statement continued. “Toward that end, the Administration will ensure that Congress has a clear and thorough understanding of the effect of any such action and of the threats facing U.S. forces, personnel, and interests around the world.”

Caleb Ecarma

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