Kaine calls on Congress to debate, vote on ISIL mission before adjournment

kaine new2In remarks on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, reiterated his months-long call for Congress to debate and vote on U.S. military action against ISIL – a mission that has gone on since August without congressional authorization.

In his remarks, Kaine made two requests: 1) that President Obama follow through on his commitment to engage Congress and immediately demand a debate and vote on an authorization for use of military force; 2) that Congress stay in session until a debate and vote is held.

“We have gone four months without any meaningful debate about this war,” Kaine said.” Now many are saying that we need to delay until after the New Year. … So the unilateral war would extend to at least five months and in all likelihood longer before Congress gets around to any meaningful discussion of the ISIL threat.”

For over five months, Kaine has been urging the Obama Administration to seek a specific authorization for use of military force against ISIL while pressing his Congressional colleagues to take action. In September, Kaine introduced a draft authorization that supports the mission laid out by President Obama but includes four key limitations: 1)  no U.S. ground troops; 2) a repeal of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force; 3) a sunset after one year; and 4) a narrow definition of “associated forces.”

“Giving any president a greenlight to wage unilateral war without any meaningful debate or authorization would be deeply destructive of the legitimacy of the legislative branch of our government,” Kaine said. “It would be deeply disrespectful of our citizens; and it would be especially disrespectful of the troops who are risking their lives every day while we do nothing.”


Full transcript of Kaine’s remarks today is below:

Madam President, next Monday will mark four months since the President commenced military action in Syria and Iraq against ISIL. As of December 2, Operation Inherent Resolve, which the administration calls a war on ISIL, has involved more than 1,100 coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the vast majority carried out by American airmen and women. The President has authorized currently 1,400 U.S. ground troops who are deployed in Iraq to train and advise regional forces. The President has authorized an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to serve in that train and advise capacity. This past Monday, 250 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina were sent to Iraq and the total cost of the operation thus far to the U.S. taxpayers is in excess of $1 billion.

There have been three deaths of Americans serving in Operation Inherent Resolve. On October 1, Marine Corporal Jordan Spears of Memphis, Indiana was lost at sea while conducting flight operations over the Persian Gulf. On October 23, Marine Lance Corporal Sean Neal of Riverside, California, died in Iraq. On December 1, Air Force Captain William Dubois of New Castle, Colorado died in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Senator King and I visited Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar in October to see the Combined Air Operation Center in action and we saw — I saw many Virginians there working with colleagues from all service branches and many other nations in coalition nations that are directing the airstrike campaign.

So, Madam President, let’s not make any mistake about this. America is at war. The number of air and ground troops deployed is steadily creeping upwards every day. Our troops are dying. And the fiscal cost to American taxpayers is growing every day.

But, Madam President, this is a most unusual war. While all the activities of war are occurring, there’s a strange conspiracy of silence about it in the White House and in the halls of Congress. The President has not offered any proposed authorization for the war despite his suggestions that one is needed. Congress has not debated on, taken committee action on, or voted on the ongoing war. The House is contemplating adjourning for the holidays on December 11 without saying anything about an ongoing war. And because neither the President nor Congress has undertaken the necessary public debate over the war, the American public have not had the chance to be fully educated about what’s at stake and why it’s in our national interest in to ask our troops to risk their lives thousands of miles away. We owe it to our troops serving abroad, troops who are engaged in war even as we think about recessing and leaving Washington on December 11 for the holidays, to do our job and to have a debate and vote about the war that our Constitution demands.

Let me make an earnest request to our President and to my colleagues in Congress. To the President: I had previously taken the floor to strongly argue that the President needs new legal authority to conduct the war on ISIL. When the President spoke to the nation on September 10 he said that he would — quote — “welcome a congressional authorization.” And on November 5, he affirmatively asserted that a new congressional authorization was needed and that he would — quote — “engage Congress in passing one.” But, to this date four months after the initiation of war, the Administration has not even been willing to present a draft authorization of the mission to Congress. In testimony yesterday at the Armed Services Committee, no DoD Witness could recall a single other instance in which a president told Congress of the need for a war but failed to present a proposed authorization spelling out the dimensions of the military mission. Instead, the President has persisted in a war that is not within the scope of his Article II powers, that is not authorized by any treaty obligation, that is not justified under either of the congressional authorizations passed in 2001 or 2002. The President’s unilateral action has even extended beyond the 60 and 90-day timing requirements created by the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

And the President’s willingness to push a war without engaging Congress has even violated his own solemn and wise pronouncement of just one year ago. Quote–“I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress. This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making powers in the hands of the president while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.”–close quote.

And so I request our president, make good on your promise to engage Congress. Do what other presidents have done. Demand that we debate and vote on an authorization and that we do it now. The votes are here in this body to support the President. I am a supporter of the need for military action against ISIL, and I know that is a position held by a strong majority of the Senate, a strong majority of the House. There is no reason for the President to not demand that we actually have that debate and have that vote.

And to my congressional colleagues, I have a similar request: Let’s not leave this capitol without a debate and vote on this war on ISIL. We’ve gone four months without any meaningful action about this war. First, we were told that Congress would get to it after the midterm elections. And so we recessed for seven weeks in the middle of a war without saying one thing, shirking our constitutional duties. And now, many are saying that we need to delay until after New Year before having any meaningful discussion of this war. And so the unilateral war would extend to at least five months and, in all likelihood, longer before Congress gets around to any meaningful discussion of the ISIL threat and what we should do to counter it.

Giving this president–giving any president–a greenlight to wage unilateral war for five or six months without any meaningful debate or authorization would be deeply destructive of the legitimacy of the legislative branch of our government; it would be deeply disrespectful of our citizens; and it would be especially disrespectful of the troops who are risking their lives every day while we do nothing. Madam President, I yield the floor.


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