Skip to content

Amendments Opposing Iraq War Could Put House Democrats in Tough Spot


Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., chair of the Poverty and Opportunity Task Force, followed from left by House Budget ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., arrive for their news conference on poverty and the House Republicans' budget on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.
Rep. Barbara Lee, among the most staunchly antiwar lawmakers on Capitol Hill, wants Congress to repeal the 2002 vote giving the White House authority to take military action in Iraq.  (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats are still grappling with how to confront the escalating violence in Iraq, but in the next 24 hours they could be forced to vote on the issue.  

Staunch antiwar Democrat Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon that she planned to offer three amendments to the fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill, which is on the House floor this week.  

“One, no funds will be used for combat operations in Iraq,” she said. “Two, I want to repeal the 2002 authorization to use force. You know, in the farm bill, transportation bill, it sunsets. This is far too long to have that authorization in effect, so I want to repeal that.  

“And,” Lee continued, “I want to repeal the 2001 authorization to use force, which has been used as the legal justification for wire tapping and other kinds of those activities.”  

Lee plans to force members to take recorded votes on these issues at a time when lawmakers — and officials across the government, for that matter — are struggling with how to best respond to the rise of a powerful terrorist organization in Iraq when many had hoped the days of war and U.S. involvement in the region were in the past.  

Asked whether she was concerned that members would react adversely to the amendments given the circumstances, Lee said no.  

“It’s the right time,” she explained, “because the American people are war weary and they want to make sure the Congress exercises its constitutional prerogative, right and authority to be involved in whatever takes place. This is the right time.”  

Lee said she made a presentation to the Democratic Caucus about her intentions and that she hasn’t heard any negative feedback, though some of her colleagues are inevitably torn between supporting their president, who has not closed the door on military action, and honoring the wishes of their war-weary constituents. Democrats who are against military intervention in Iraq may also not want to appear callous to the dire conditions there.  

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., might return to Capitol Hill with new insights for Lee regarding the evolving conflict in Iraq after meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.  

On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters he thought air strikes in Iraq should not be ruled out.  

On Wednesday, Boehner reiterated his disappointment with Obama’s foreign policy platform in light of the destructive rise to power of the extremist insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  

“The president has been watching, well we’ve been watching for over a year as the situation in Iraq continued to be undermined. Yet nothing, nothing, has happened,” he said at a Wednesday morning press conference.  

Last week, Boehner was more blunt : He said that when it came to Iraq, Obama was “taking a nap.”