Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., says it’s way past time for Congress to formally authorize military force to press America’s war against the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS.
It’s been 17 months since the United States officially has engaged in battle, Kaine said, arguing for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, to replace the existing one from 2001.
“I don’t think we should have America at war without a vote of Congress,” Kaine said in an interview with The Daily Signal conducted the day before a Muslim man and his wife shot 14 to death and wounded 21 others in San Bernardino, Calif.
The Virginia Democrat and his Republican counterpart from Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake, introduced their version of an AUMF in June. Since then, they have pressed colleagues on both sides of the aisle to call for a vote on it.
In the wake of the ISIS-affiliated attacks Nov. 13 in Paris, Kaine said he was hopeful that fellow senators will take a second look:
I hope we’ll get to the point where Congress will do their job. We shouldn’t just be doing this on a presidential say-so. Congress should put our thumbprint on this mission so that our allies know where Congress stands, ISIL [or ISIS] knows where our Congress stands, but especially our troops know that we’re behind them.
Leaders of both parties don’t appear to be motivated to have their members take a tough vote when the Obama administration already is carrying out military action against ISIS.
Some conservatives make a policy argument for why Congress could decide that a new authorization of military force isn’t necessary, as the administration has in the past, because the Islamic State sprang from al-Qaeda.
Charles “Cully” Stimson, manager of The Heritage Foundation’s National Security Law Program, writes:
First and foremost, Congress must closely analyze whether ISIS could fall under the 2001 AUMF. In other words, given the historical ties between ISIS and al-Qaeda, do they fit into the narrow class of targets that fall under the 2001 AUMF? If they do, as a legal matter, there may be no need for a stand-alone congressional authorization for use of force against ISIS.
If Congress does decide on a new authorization, Stimson writes, it should tailor the document to the Islamic State in methods, target, purpose, and timing.
“An authorization for use of military force is not a substitute for a comprehensive strategy to confront and defeat an enemy, whether the enemy is a state actor (i.e., a country) or a non-state actor, such as a terrorist organization,” Stimson writes.
Widespread disagreement exists about just how far-reaching a new authorization of military force should be. The wording so far has been tricky, but Kaine said politics needs to be pushed aside on such a fundamental issue:
The reason you don’t want to be at war without a vote of Congress is pretty important. It’s not just because it’s in the Constitution. A war means you’re ordering people to risk their lives[.] … [B]efore you force them to do that, you ought to at least have a debate and say, ‘We think this is in the national interest.’
That’s what the vote of Congress does. The debate educates the American public about the stakes, and then, when Congress votes, it’s like you’re putting your thumb on this mission: This is in the national interest, you volunteered for the military, so now you’re going to be deployed.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this article.