Biden Seeks Update for a Much-Stretched Law That Authorizes the War on Terrorism


Still, there are signs that the politics may be shifting. While some veteran Republicans who favored overhauling the A.U.M.F. have retired — like former Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona — there are also many recently elected lawmakers, on the far left and right in particular, who share the view that Congress needs to regain its role in war decisions.

Amid the flux, Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, has been a steady force in pushing for overhauling the war authorizations. In Ms. Psaki’s statement, which was earlier reported by Politico, the White House also singled Mr. Kaine out on Friday as a lawmaker it wanted to work with in trying to sort through the tangle.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine, citing Mr. Biden’s deep experience in both the legislative and executive branches, said the senator hoped the new president could help restore balance of war powers. “We need to protect the country but not be in perpetual war,” she said. “And he is already in bipartisan discussion with his colleagues and the administration about how to do that.”

This week, Mr. Kaine and several colleagues of both parties introduced a bill that would repeal two other aging war laws that are still on the books: a 1991 one that authorized the Persian Gulf war against Iraq, and a 2002 one that authorized the second Iraq war. In previous sessions, he has also sponsored legislation that would tackle the harder question of how to repeal and replace the 2001 A.U.M.F., but so far he has not reintroduced it.

While the 1991 gulf war law is obsolete, the 2002 Iraq war law retains relevance. In 2014, after the Islamic State swept across parts of Iraq and Syria and the Obama administration began bombing it, President Barack Obama asked Congress for a law to authorize the war, while simultaneously insisting he did not need new legislative approval.

The Obama administration’s rationale cited both the 2001 and 2002 war laws as providing a pre-existing legal basis to attack ISIS, which had evolved from a Qaeda affiliate that participated in the Iraq war insurgency. The claim was disputed, but an attempt to get a court to scrutinize its legitimacy failed.

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