Congressional actions on the Iraq War prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion

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In October 2002 (the 107th Congress), both the House and Senate passed a resolution giving President Bush the authority to use military force in Iraq. The resolution noted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (believed by many at the time, though ultimately proven false), continued hostility towards the U.S., and several other factors. As the resolution was debated, many amendments were introduced, and several received a floor vote. This page details each of the roll call votes taken in the House and Senate leading up to the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and a coalition of nations.

107th Congress (2001-2002)

Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)

After weeks of negotiations between President Bush and congressional leaders from both parties, the House International Relations Committee approved a "compromise" resolution - the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq - on October 3, 2002 by a vote of 31 to 11. [1]

The bill gave Bush broad authority to use military force against Iraq "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." [2]

In return, Bush was required to make a report to Congress no later than 48 hours after exercising the authority that it was "his determination" that:

  1. "Reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq;" and
  2. "Acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." [3]

Congress also explicitly stated that the AUMF did not cede any of its powers under the War Powers Resolution and required reports every 60 days on actions related to the exercise of the AUMF, including "the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998." [4]

An identical version of the bill was introduced into the Senate as S.AMDT.4856 by Sen. Joe Lieberman (at the time a Democrat from Connecticut) and 19 cosponsors: Sens. John Warner (R-Va.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Zell Miller (D-Ga.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), John Edwards (D-N.C.), Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.) Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). [5]

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also proposed a substitution amendment that stipulated that the U.S. military operations must wait until the U.N. passed a resolution of its own authorizing force. [6]

House

AUMF: Amendment to require President Bush to work on U.N. disarmament of Iraq before war

During the debate over the resolution giving the president the right to use military force against Iraq, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment (H.AMDT.608) urging the president to use diplomacy and work through the United Nations rather than launching a military strike against Iraq. Supporters felt as though doing so would ensure that the U.S. maintained the cooperation of the global community. Opponents believed that the U.S. did not require the permission of other nations to protect itself.[7][8]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 72-355, view details
Dem: 70-136 opposed, GOP: 1-219 opposed, Ind: 1-0 in favor

AUMF: Amendment to require congressional approval before war

During the debate over the resolution giving the president the right to use military force against Iraq, Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) proposed an amendment (H.AMDT.609) requiring the president to obtain congressional approval before using military force against Iraq if a United Nations resolution could not be obtained. Supporters argued that the amendment ensured that Congress would have the final say in regards to going to war (which the Constitution guarantees).[9]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 155-270, view details
Dem: 147-60 in favor, GOP: 7-210 opposed, Ind: 1-0 in favor

AUMF: Motion to recommit to committee

During the debate over the resolution giving the president the right to use military force against Iraq, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) proposed an amendment to recommit the Iraq resolution to committee with instructions requiring the president to submit to Congress an estimate of the impact of the war on the U.S. economy, Iraqi citizens, and international stability. Supporters felt as though the motion was necessary, for the costs of the war were likely to be high and military action should remain a last resort in dealing with Iraq.[10]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 101-325, view details
Dem: 99-106 opposed, GOP: 1-219 opposed, Ind: 1-0 in favor

Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq (AUMF): Final vote

This resolution is the most significant vote on Iraq taken in the House, as it officially gave President Bush the right to, “use the armed forces of the United States as he determines necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” He would need no further authority to deploy troops, order airstrikes and wage a ground war with Iraq. While the bill passed decisively, many Democrats and a handful of Republicans opposed it. Some argued that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the United States, some stressed that only Congress has the right to declare war, and others argued that only a mandate from the United Nations would justify military action in Iraq.[11]

October 10, 2002
Passed, 296-133, view details
Dem: 81-126 opposed, GOP: 215-6 in favor, Ind: 1 opposed

Senate

Few Senators read Iraq National Intelligence Estimate report

Prior to the beginning of the War in Iraq, and the congressional votes authorizing military action, the U.S. intelligence community produced a 92-page final National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's ability to attack the U.S. According to a 2007 survey by The Hill:

  • Twenty-two Senators said they read the report before voting to authorize the war
  • Thirty-eight Senators said they had not read the report or could not recall if they had read it
  • Six Senators would not comment
  • Nine Senators and twenty-one former Senators did not respond to requests for comments[12]

Many Senators explained that while they did not read the entire report, they had been comprehensively briefed on its contents and other relevant information prior to voting to authorize the war. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) explained, for example: "I don’t think anybody read the entire report; everybody gets summaries of it."[13]

AUMF: Amendment requiring a termination date for the authorization of force, together with procedures for the extension of such date at Congress's discretion

During the debate over giving President Bush the authority to use military force in Iraq, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) introduced an amendment (S.AMDT.4869) which would have placed a one-year limit on the authorization. Once the year ended, the president could extend the authorization if he believed it was necessary and Congress had not passed a joint resolution disapproving of the extension.

October 10, 2002
Failed, 31-66, view details
Dem: 29-19 in favor, GOP: 1-47 opposed, Ind: 1 in favor

AUMF: Amendment declaring that the authorization to use force allows for unprovoked U.S. attacks against Iraq

In the Senate, the original text of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq was quickly replaced by an amendment (S.AMDT.4856) sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) that still authorized President Bush to use force against Iraq. It was this amendment that was itself amended before officially replacing the text of the bill. [14] Before the amendment was approved by a voice vote, a vote for "cloture" was needed to end debate. Sixty votes are needed to end debate. This vote for cloture on Lieberman's amendment passed overwhelmingly. [15]

October 10, 2002
Passed, 75-25, view details
Dem: 28-22 in favor, GOP: 47-2 in favor, Ind: 1 opposed

AUMF: Amendment declaring that the authorization to use force in Iraq reasserts Congress's power to declare war

During the debate over the resolution giving President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) proposed an amendment (S.AMDT.4868) clarifying that Congress had not abandoned its constitutional power to declare war, and that any additional use of force in Iraq not connected to an imminent threat would require an additional grant of authority.[16]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 14-86, view details
Dem: 12-38 opposed, GOP: 1-48 opposed, Ind: 1 in favor

AUMF: Amendment declaring that use of force requires U.N. compliance with military action in Iraq

During the debate over the resolution giving President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) proposed an amendment (S.AMDT.4862) restricting the president from using force without U.N. authority. In addition, the amendment required the president to again receive authorization from Congress if Iraq defied the provisions of a U.N. resolution. Supporters felt as though doing so would ensure that the U.S. maintained the cooperation of the global community. Opponents believed that the U.S. did not require the permission of other nations to protect itself.[17]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 24-75, view details
Dem: 22-28 opposed, GOP: 1-47 opposed, Ind: 1 in favor

AUMF: Amendment to require existence of an imminent threat prior to U.S. military deployment

During the debate over the resolution giving President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, House Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) proposed an amendment (S.AMDT.4865) requiring that an "imminent" threat be present before turning to force. Opponents believed this language was too restrictive and that the president ought to have the right to use force in the face of a "continuing" threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.[18]

October 10, 2002
Failed, 30-70, view details
Dem: 29-21 in favor, GOP: 0-49 opposed, Ind: 1 in favor

Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq: Final vote

This resolution is the most significant vote on Iraq taken in the Senate, as it officially gave President Bush the right to, “use the armed forces of the United States as he determines necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” He would need no further authority to deploy troops, order airstrikes and wage a ground war with Iraq. While the bill passed decisively, many Democrats and one Republican---Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.)---opposed it. While some argued that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the United States and that only a U.N. mandate could justify war, others feared that approving the resolution would cede Congress’s Constitutional right to declare war to the president.[19]

October 11, 2002
Passed, 77-23, view details
Dem: 29-21 in favor, GOP: 48-1 in favor, Ind: 1 opposed

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Sources

  1. Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., "U.S. House Committee Approves Use of Force Resolution Against Iraq, Washington File, October 3, 2002.
  2. Thomas information page on H.J.Res.114 (see second version, "as reported in House"), Library of Congress.
  3. Thomas information page on H.J.Res.114 (see second version, "as reported in House"), Library of Congress.
  4. Thomas information page on H.J.Res.114 (see second version, "as reported in House"), Library of Congress.
  5. Thomas information page on amendment 4856 for S.J.Res.45, Library of Congress and Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., "U.S. House Committee Approves Use of Force Resolution Against Iraq, Washington File, October 3, 2002.
  6. Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., "U.S. House Committee Approves Use of Force Resolution Against Iraq, Washington File, October 3, 2002.
  7. H.J. Res. 114. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Impel President to Work Through U.N. to Disarm Iraq, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  8. Jim VandeHei and Juliet Eilperin, "Congress Passes Iraq Resolution," Washington Post, October 11, 2002.
  9. H.J. Res. 114. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Require Congressional Compliance Prior to Military Action in Iraq, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  10. H.J. Res. 114. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Recommit to Committee a Bill to Allow an Unprovoked U.S. Attack Against Iraq, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  11. Jim VandeHei and Juliet Eilperin, "Congress Passes Iraq Resolution," Washington Post, October 11, 2002.
  12. Manu Raju, Elana Schor and Ilan Wurman, "Few senators read Iraq NIE report," The Hill, June 19, 2007.
  13. Manu Raju, Elana Schor and Ilan Wurman, "Few senators read Iraq NIE report," The Hill, June 19, 2007.
  14. Info page on S.AMDT.4856, 107th Congress, the Library of Congress.
  15. S J Res 45. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Cloture Vote to Allow Unprovoked U.S. Attacks Against Iraq, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  16. S J Res 45. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Reaffirm Congress's Power to Declare War, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  17. S J Res 45. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Require U.N. Compliance with Military Action in Iraq, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  18. S J Res 45. Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force in Iraq/Vote to Require Existence of an Imminent Threat Prior to U.S. Military Deployment, Progressive Punch, October 10, 2002.
  19. Jim VandeHei and Juliet Eilperin, "Congress Passes Iraq Resolution," Washington Post, October 11, 2002.

External resources

External articlces