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White House open to changing war powers authority following rocket attack in Syria

The White House North Lawn, March 26, 2019 on the North Lawn. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The Biden administration on Friday backed a push to replace war powers that have underpinned decades of U.S. military action, acknowledging concerns from lawmakers who balked at airstrikes in eastern Syria last week.

The word from the White House, which has tiptoed into a cautious stance on foreign policy in its early months, came two days after a bipartisan group in the Senate introduced legislation to scrub military power authorizations passed in 1991 and 2002.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a statement that the administration is committed to working with lawmakers to “ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars.”

The strikes in Syria represented a response to rocket attacks on American and coalition personnel, according to U.S. officials.

But the first lethal military action conducted by the Biden administration still generated congressional concern that the White House didn’t collect necessary authorization.

“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the Executive Branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a Wednesday statement. “Congress has a responsibility to not only vote to authorize new military action, but to repeal old authorizations that are no longer necessary.”

Another military assault arrived on Wednesday, as the Ayn al Asad airbase in Iraq — which hosts American forces — faced fire from a volley of rockets. A U.S. civilian contractor died of a heart attack during the attack, and the Biden administration warned of possible retaliation.


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