Barbara Lee’s Long Quest to Curb Presidential War Powers Faces a New Test

WASHINGTON — Just days after the Sept. 11 assaults, Representative Barbara Lee took a lonely stand as the only lawmaker in Congress to vote towards invading Afghanistan, warning that granting the president such broad powers would plunge the nation into perpetual warfare.

For years after that vote, Ms. Lee, a California Democrat, remained a solitary determine on a seemingly quixotic quest, pushing tirelessly — and sometimes fruitlessly — to rein within the expansive war-making authorities that her colleagues had unanimously granted the president.

Twenty years later, Ms. Lee is not on her personal.

Weary of continued conflicts overseas, lawmakers and voters in each events have come round to Ms. Lee’s view that such authorizations have been abused by presidents in each events to wage warfare far past the scope Congress ever supposed.

Key congressional committees have voted alongside bipartisan traces for the previous two years to repeal the 2001 regulation. And for the primary time, a actual pathway exists to repeal the 2002 authorization for the invasion of Iraq. Forty-nine House Republicans joined nearly each Democrat to approve that repeal in June, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorised the laws final month.

Now, simply as legislative momentum appeared to be at Ms. Lee’s again, her mission is going through a recent take a look at: whether or not the congressional urge for food for revisiting the decades-old authorizations can maintain at the same time as lawmakers balk on the penalties of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The chaotic departure has raised new fears about a resurgence of terrorist teams together with Al Qaeda and ISIS-Ok.

“I’m hoping members of Congress realize they can’t be missing in action and passing the buck to the president,” Ms. Lee stated in an interview.

But as Ms. Lee is aware of all too properly, it’s a posture her colleagues have been snug taking for practically 20 years. Congress has not voted on a new authorization of army drive — or to curtail current ones — since 2002, when lawmakers gave President George W. Bush the facility to invade Iraq.

Since then, presidents of each events have invoked the 2002 and 2001 warfare authorities to justify army drive in lots of different locations, stretching the legal guidelines to justify open-ended warfare across the globe.

That was the situation Ms. Lee had feared when she voted towards the 60-word decision in 2001, three days after she and her colleagues evacuated the Capitol on Sept. 11.

That day on the House flooring, in speeches alternately lofty and livid, Republicans and Democrats spoke with one defiant voice, vowing to destroy the terrorists who deliberate the assaults and to unify in help of Mr. Bush. A Republican congressman predicted the regulation would go unanimously, and stated the show of unity would give him nice consolation.

Then Ms. Lee rose to converse.

“However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint,” she stated. “Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let us step back for a moment. Let us just pause for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.”

In the top, 518 members of Congress, together with senators, voted in favor of the decision. Only Ms. Lee dissented.

The daughter of a retired lieutenant colonel who fought in World War II and Korea, Ms. Lee, 75, has lengthy insisted that she isn’t a pacifist. As she mulled her vote, she stated, it was her background in psychiatric social work — the place she realized the significance of by no means making a resolution within the warmth of emotion — that helped make up her thoughts.

Her stance was rapidly met with a fierce backlash. Some of Ms. Lee’s closest colleagues in Congress, she recalled, initially thought she had voted in error. When they realized she had purposefully opposed the decision, they urged her to change her place, warning her that she could be voted out of workplace except she did.

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Outside Washington, voters livid along with her stand deluged Ms. Lee with hate mail and demise threats, to the purpose that she required a safety element, aides recalled.

Ms. Lee launched the identical amendments to repeal the Sept. 11-era authorizations of drive 12 months after 12 months, forcing her colleagues to go on the report.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

But she remained undeterred. In 2003, Ms. Lee launched an modification that referred to as for a examine to decide whether or not the intelligence neighborhood withheld or manipulated data from United Nations weapons inspectors that shaped the idea of the nation’s invasion of Iraq. It acquired 185 votes, 33 wanting passing.

So Ms. Lee discovered different openings to press the difficulty, introducing the identical amendments to repeal the Sept. 11-era authorizations of drive 12 months after 12 months and forcing her colleagues to go on the report. Behind the scenes, she buttonholed lawmakers in each events, selecting up votes as she made her case.

“Every step of the way, there’d be maybe two or three more members that I would sit down and talk with,” Ms. Lee stated. “We’ve just been chipping away at it. This is a marathon.”

A breakthrough got here in 2017, when the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted to repeal the 2001 authorization.

“You’re making converts all over the place, Ms. Lee,” Rodney Frelinghuysen, Republican of New Jersey after which the chairman of the panel, stated on the time. “Indeed, you have been incredibly persistent and perseverant on this issue for a number of years. I think we recognize you, and obviously you have allies in the room. We share your concern.”

Paul D. Ryan, then the speaker, unilaterally stripped it from a bigger spending invoice, basically killing the repeal. But the trouble revealed a swell of help amongst conservatives for ending army conflicts overseas, mirroring a key pledge made by President Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, a few of Ms. Lee’s most ardent supporters in her campaign have been unlikely allies, together with archconservatives within the House Freedom Caucus — a few of whom had been vocal in supporting the Stop the Steal motion that fueled the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

“It’s much more difficult now,” she stated. “It’s a very difficult moment to talk with and try to work with those who don’t believe that” the election was authentic.

Ms. Lee, who now leads the House Appropriations panel that oversees overseas affairs, stated she was appalled to see some Republicans with whom she had labored on the repeal effort activate President Biden after he withdrew American troops from Afghanistan.

“Either they were silent on the withdrawal or very very critical — even those Republicans who supported it when Trump issued the date for withdrawal,” she stated. “So to see them now try to recreate history is very shocking.”

That whiplash — mixed with vocal criticism from longtime hawks in each events — may imperil efforts now underway within the Senate to repeal the 2002 authorization, which proponents view because the steppingstone to casting off the extra expansive 2001 regulation.

At a listening to on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, urged to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken that the Biden administration “revisit” its earlier suggestion that Congress work with the president to repeal the authorizations.

“We need to look to make sure we have all the authorities that we would need for any potential contingency, including the re-emergence as a threat” of Al Qaeda or ISIS-Ok, Mr. Blinken replied. “If we don’t have those authorities, we should get them, whether it means re-looking at those authorizations or writing new ones, which I think would be the most appropriate thing to do if necessary.”

For now, polling exhibits that ending the nation’s army conflicts overseas stays largely widespread with voters. And activists in favor of the repeal who’ve been doing their very own whip counts on Capitol Hill say that they’ve seen little proof to recommend that their efforts might be crushed.

“We’re not finding that that is stopping people from wanting to say: ‘Well, wait a minute. Should the U.S. really be involved in all these wars?’” stated Jim Cason, the affiliate common secretary for strategic advocacy on the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

“Maybe that was a lonely vote 20 years ago,” he added, “but looking today, can we really argue that these 20 years of war have gotten the United States what it had hoped to achieve?”