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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Congress is about to repeal a president's authorization to use military force for the first time in about half a century, kicking off a debate about restoring its role in authorizing future wars.

Why it matters: Democrats are eager to declare they've succeeded in facilitating an official end to America's "endless wars." The 2002 AUMF that justified the Iraq war was cited as recently as the January 2020 assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad.

  • Critics say the authorization was never intended for such an operation and letting it linger could trigger misuse by future presidents.
  • Some Republicans fear repealing it could embolden Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, which have carried out attacks against U.S. troops stationed there.
  • Biden, who supports repealing it, has acknowledged the U.S. has "no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis."
  • The repeal of another resolution passed in 2001, which also has been exploited, would be a heavier lift.

Between the lines: The 2002 authorization gave President George W. Bush the domestic authority to invade Iraq and topple the government of Saddam Hussein.

  • Nearly 20 years later, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is down to 2,500 from a peak of about 170,000, and the Iraqi government is an ally of the United States.
  • The Senate — on a rare bipartisan basis — is expected to vote as early as this week to repeal it as a component of approving the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) concedes it will be repealed but is expected to speak out against the move, aides told Axios.

Driving the news: Part of the Democratic impetus is to rebound from the heavy criticism Biden and their party took for the administration's botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  • A repeal of the 2002 AUMF also would lay the groundwork for another effort to replace the 2001 AUMF for the post-9/11 "war on terror."
  • Critics label it a blank check cited for operations in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Niger, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and the Philippines.
  • It's also been used to justify the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

Lawmakers who support repealing and replacing the 2001 authorization insist they're a long way off from that vote. Instead, they see their plans to deal with the 2002 AUMF as a necessary first step.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who's been leading the effort, said he and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are in discussions with the White House about repealing and replacing the 2001 AUMF.
  • "But the idea was always we would get another [AUMF] repealed first,” he said.

What they're saying:

  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the foreign relations panel, told Axios: "I think that when Congress authorizes the use of force, when the purpose of its use has ended, then it should repeal it so no one can misuse it.”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was evasive, saying, “I am a strong believer in Congress exercising its authority of war fighting."
  • "At the same time, some of the Democratic efforts in this area are really about giving a green light to Iran and the ayatollah, and trying to tie the hands of any military response to a nuclear Iran," Cruz said. "I think that’s a mistake."

Menendez cautioned that acting on the 2001 AUMF "is much more difficult." He said, "2001 is not just about repeal; it’s about replacement."

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a proud libertarian, told Axios: "I think it would be great" to repeal the 2002 AUMF. But he also warned the 2001 AUMF, which he supports repealing, is "a bigger hurdle.”
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), told Axios he's far more interested in repealing the 2001 AUMF because it’s been interpreted by a president to “do just about anything he wants to."
  • "And I don’t agree with that interpretation. But now four administrations have interpreted 2001 as broad powers," Cardin said.

Go deeper

Chart: It’s been 47 years since Congress repealed an AUMF

Expand chart
Data: Congressional Research Service/Axios research; Table: Will Chase/Axios

The last time an authorization of military force was repealed was in 1974, and some ancient authorizations remain on the books, according to the Congressional Research Service and House Historian.

Why it matters: Lawmakers in both parties have framed repeals as a rare instance of the legislative branch wresting some control back from the executive branch. That's especially true in the post-9/11 era, when Congress’ authority on war powers is often overlooked.

Updated 15 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."