WASHINGTON—Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose vote to authorize the Iraq war is a sore point with anti-war Democrats, joined an effort Thursday to revoke the authorization.
Legislation being drafted by Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., would terminate congressional approval for the war on Oct. 11—exactly five years after Congress cleared the way for the 2003 invasion. The war authorization gave President Bush permission to use military force against Iraq “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate.”
Revoking the authorization would force Bush to return to Congress for another vote or wage war without explicit approval from lawmakers. The revocation effort opened a new line of attack against the war a day after Congress upheld the president’s veto of a war-spending bill that included a timetable for withdrawal.
“If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him,” Clinton said in a Senate speech.
The legislation’s prospects are uncertain, but Clinton’s support for it could help her campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Her past support for the war has drawn criticism from anti-war activists, an influential force in the Democratic Party.
Within minutes of her Senate speech, Clinton trumpeted her support for revocation on her presidential campaign Web site—www.hillaryhub.com—under the headline: “Breaking—Hillary: Deauthorize the War.”
“Welcome to politics `08-style,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “What’s so troubling is that these political actions, taken a day after the bipartisan leadership agreed to work with the White House on a bill to fund the troops, ignores the long-term security interests of Iraq, the Middle East region and our own country.”
Clinton was one of 29 Senate Democrats who supported the 2002 war authorization. Twenty-one voted against it. She has refused to apologize for her vote, despite pressure from anti-war activists, but has expressed some regrets.
“It was a sincere vote based on the information available to me. And I’ve said many times that, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have voted that way,” she said at an April 26 Democratic campaign debate in South Carolina.
Clinton and other advocates of revoking the war authorization contend it’s no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq.
The authorization, which passed the Senate by 77-23, contains several paragraphs denouncing the regime of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. It authorizes force to defend the United States against “the continuing threat posed by Iraq” and to enforce all relevant U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
Saddam has been executed, the new Iraqi regime has declared itself a U.S. ally and the U.N. resolutions demanding Iraq’s disarmament are moot.
“The October 2002 authorization to use force has run its course. It is time, past time, to decommission this authorization and retire it to the archives,” Byrd said. “If the president has more that he wants to do in Iraq, then he needs to make that case to Congress and to the American public.”
The legislation Byrd and Clinton suggested hasn’t been written. Byrd said it might be attached to the new war-spending bill being negotiated now by White House aides and congressional leaders, or it could be attached to other defense bills later this spring.