By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. lawmakers said on Friday they will begin working within weeks on legislation to overhaul authorizations for the use of military force that presidents from both parties have used to justify decades of attacks on overseas targets.
Representative Gregory Meeks said the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chairs, would begin debating the repeal of an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that allowed the 2002 war in Iraq.
"I intend to mark up legislation in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming weeks to repeal it," Meeks told a video news conference with a group of fellow Democrats.
Senators have also been pushing to shift back the authority to declare war to Congress from the White House. In the wake of airstrikes on Syria ordered by President Joe Biden, a bipartisan group on March 3 introduced legislation to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF as well as one passed in 1991.
The Democratic-led House voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF last year, but the measure was never taken up by the Senate, which was led then by Republicans.
The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, not the president. That authority shifted after Congress passed AUMFs that did not expire - the Iraq measures as well as one that justified the fight against al Qaeda in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Representative Barbara Lee told the news conference that the AUMFs have been used more than 40 times to justify attacks in 19 countries.
"It's time we end these forever wars," Lee said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said any new authorization should have an end date, apply to specific countries and require consultation with and reporting to Congress.
The White House said last week that Biden believes the AUMFs should be re-examined.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)