It comes just two days after a bipartisan group of senators, led by Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), introduced a bill to repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and one passed in 1991 ahead of the first Iraq War.
Senators proposed the measure amid bipartisan anger over Biden’s decision to launch retaliatory airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria last week without first seeking congressional approval. The operation frustrated many of Biden’s allies on the Hill and renewed longstanding concerns among Democrats and Republicans alike that Congress has abdicated its constitutional role in declaring war and authorizing military operations.
“Tim Kaine has been a leader on questions of war powers throughout his time in the Senate,” Psaki said in her statement, “and has helped build a strong bipartisan coalition that understands the importance of Congress’s constitutional prerogatives.”
A spokesperson for Kaine said the senator “is already in bipartisan discussion with his colleagues and the administration.”
“Sen. Kaine believes that President Biden, who has a deep understanding of both congressional and executive responsibilities, is in a unique position to help America restore balance in how we make decisions about war and peace,” the spokesperson said.
An ideologically diverse group of senators has signed onto the Kaine-Young effort — a reflection of the fact that reining in presidential war powers has long been a bipartisan priority.
Their effort comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran; the U.S. believes an Iran-backed group was responsible for rocket attacks Wednesday that targeted an Iraqi base housing American troops.
Still, in the days following Biden’s Syria strikes, lawmakers have questioned the White House’s rationale and legal justification for the attacks. Biden said he ordered the strikes in “self defense” after Iran-backed militia groups targeted U.S. forces in the region in recent rocket attacks.
That explanation hasn’t satisfied top Democrats, who have used the strikes to revive their years-long push to scale back presidential war powers.
Kaine in particular has warned of the potential for a tit-for-tat military conflict between the U.S. and Iran that could explode into a full-blown war. And Democrats more broadly have criticized the Biden administration for its lack of engagement with Congress in the days since the strikes.
But unlike in previous administrations, the Pentagon did not cite any of the previous war authorizations as the legal justifications for the Syria strikes, signaling it plans to pursue a different approach.
Instead, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby pointed to Article II of the Constitution, which grants the commander-in-chief “not only the authority but the obligation to protect American forces,” as well as Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which grants members the right to self defense.
Yet reaching agreement on a new authorization for the use of military force could prove exceedingly difficult. For instance, there remain widely divergent views on the scope or duration of a new congressional war resolution that would cover ongoing combat operations in numerous places like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, including counterterrorism operations in dozens of other countries.
Former President Barack Obama also proposed replacing the current war authorizations but failed to reach bipartisan consensus on the exact outlines.