WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following remarks in advance of the Senate’s vote on final passage to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force against Iraq. Today’s remarks follow the Senator’s leadership in advancing repeal of the AUMFs, both on the Floor (here, here, and here) and in Committee, where legislation to repeal the AUMFs was approved with bipartisan support.
“With this vote, we make clear that the Iraq of 2023 is not the Iraq of 2003,” Chairman Menendez said. “We owe it to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to their families. We owe it to the service members who again may be called upon to fight. We owe it to them to demonstrate that we take our solemn duty seriously and to do what is right….We should all be proud of the history we are making, together, to pass this bill with a strong bipartisan vote.”
Find a copy of the Chairman’s remarks as delivered below.
“Mr. President, this vote today has deep personal significance for me and for many others.
For me, because as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I finally have come full circle from my vote in the House of Representatives 21 years ago when I did not support the 2002 AUMF.
Mr. President, I have had—for my 31 years in Congress—a standard. If the cause is right, and the nation needs it, then I will vote to send my son and daughter in to war, and I will vote to send anyone else’s sons and daughters into war.
But if the cause is not right, and the nation truly does not need it, not will I not send my son and daughter into war, I will not vote to send anyone else’s sons and daughters into war.
At that time, as a member of the House, I did my due diligence with all the evidence that was available. I saw no clear and present danger, no imminent threat to the United States, and above all no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. So, I voted no. I was in the minority at the time. In many respects, it was a tough vote, but it was the right vote.
It is significant for some of my fellow senators, many of whom fought in the war in Iraq. I echo what Ranking Member Risch said—when our sons and daughters answer the call they don’t say ‘is this the right or wrong war?’ They just say ‘I am here to serve.’
So we honor their service, both in the Iraq War and in the Gulf War before it.
What we do today is the ultimate way in which we honor them.
It is significant for those whose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones have fought.
And it is significant, because for the first time in five decades, when Congress repealed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, we are ending a war.
Today, I want to speak about what we are accomplishing together as we turn the page on that war and that chapter of American foreign policy.
It has taken 21 long years for this body to re-evaluate the adoption of the 2002 AUMF.
And today, we are working together—this is the ultimate expression of what this body should be doing. Working together—Democrats and Republicans—to support repeal.
I want to salute the Majority Leader, Senator Schumer, for giving us the time on the Floor and a process for which the weightiness of what we are doing could be fully considered. I salute him for doing so.
That makes this historic vote a bipartisan vote.
With this vote, we make clear that the Iraq of 2023 is not the Iraq of 2003.
Far from being a menace to the region, today’s Iraq is a willing U.S. partner that seeks closer integration with its Arab neighbors.
With this vote, we can show the world that the United States is a strong partner.
That we are not an occupying force. That we engage with partner countries when their interests are aligned with ours.
This vote shows that while we still face challenges and threats to U.S. interests—and I agree with my colleague about the challenges of Iran. No one has fought harder for over two decades to meet the challenge of Iran.
But this is not about Iran. This is about Iraq. Saddam Hussein is gone. The Iraq of 2003 is not the Iraq of 2023.
This vote shows that while we still face challenges and threats to U.S. interests, the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force do not address those threats and are not necessary for the United States to defend against them.
This vote shows that Congress is prepared to claw back our constitutional role in deciding how and when our nation goes to war.
And also when it should end wars.
It also protects against future administrations abusing authorizations that outlive their mandate but remain on the books.
We can take up our responsibilities, once again, to call if the nation needs it and the president comes and says ‘I need an Authorization for Use of Force because Country X is challenging the national security of the United States.’
We can do that, but we should not allow any president to use an authorization that was never intended for ‘Country X’ or the circumstances of that to be the excuse to go to war without coming to Congress. So I see it differently than my colleague.
And to be clear, this vote has nothing to do with Iran and in no way diminishes our ability to protect U.S. interests against Iranian aggression.
Mr. President, it has taken a long time to get here.
And I again want to commend my colleague Senator Kaine, who has been a constant clarion call of our responsibility and has pricked the conscience of the Committee and the Senate on several occasions to get to this point.
Also to Senator Young, who has joined him in that effort, for their stalwart commitment to get this done and to see this through to such a momentous conclusion.
This is a defining moment.
I urge all of my colleagues to vote to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations to Use Military Force in Iraq.
We owe it to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to their families.
We owe it to the service members who again may be called upon to fight.
We owe it to them to demonstrate that we take our solemn duty seriously and to do what is right.
I am proud that we are taking this step today.
We should all be proud of the history we are making, together, to pass this bill with a strong bipartisan vote.
With that Mr. President, I yield the floor.”
These remarks were edited lightly for clarity.