The House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment from Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force eight months after the appropriations bill was signed into law.
The amendment is intended is to force Congress to debate and pass a new war authorization for the war against ISIS and al Qaeda. Critics like Lee argue the 2001 war authorization is overly broad and gives the president "the authority to wage war in perpetuity."
This is believed to be the first time a congressional panel has voted to repeal the 2001 AUMF, setting the stage for a rare House floor debate and potential vote on an issue that lawmakers in both parties have been reluctant to take up, still wary of the consequences for Hillary Clinton and others after the 2002 Iraq War vote.
The measure leaves open the question of what authorization would replace the 2001 AUMF, setting up the prospect of adding a major debate about the US role in the fight against ISIS to what's already a packed congressional agenda with health care, tax reform, spending cuts and more.
However, the provision is a long way from being signed into law, as the defense appropriations bill will have to be eventually reconciled in the Senate, giving congressional leaders the ability to strip the AUMF language from a final spending bill.
"Today was just another step in the process, but it was historic, we got consensus in the appropriations committee," said Lee, who was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF.
The 2001 AUMF was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The call to pass a new war authorization intensified in 2014 when the US began fighting against ISIS in Iraq, but congressional leaders have resisted efforts to put AUMF bills on the floor.
The amendment quickly provoked opposition, which could foreshadow a floor fight next month when the defense bill is expected to go to the floor.
"I am shocked and deeply troubled by the decision of the House Appropriations Committee to adopt an amendment that rescinds the authority granted by Congress to allow the President to execute the war against terrorism," said Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
In the appropriations markup Thursday, Lee's amendment picked up steam from Republicans during debate, including Reps. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Chris Stewart of Utah, an Air Force veteran.
"They have the courage to go out and fight these wars, and they notice we don't have the courage to debate this and give them the authority to go out and do this," said Stewart, an Air Force veteran.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, said he had planned to vote against Lee's amendment but changed his mind during the debate.
The amendment passed by voice vote, eliciting cheers from Democrats.
In the Senate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said the House vote could help spur additional momentum for Congress to take up a new war authorization. Kaine's bill with Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake could be taken up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next month, he said.
"It hopefully will add some additional energy for the need to try to come up with a better, more current version," Kaine said.