Following U.S. Senator Tim Kaine’s months-long push for a meaningful, transparent debate and vote on an authorization for U.S. military action against ISIL, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today on the mission against ISIL with Secretary of State John Kerry – a move Kaine believes is a critical, yet overdue, first step in properly authorizing this mission.
Responding to criticism about the unorthodox process that led to today’s hearing, Kaine said: “Congress has been silent about this. I don’t think we weaken our nation so much with an unwieldy process as we weaken our nation when we don’t take seriously the most solemn responsibility Congress has, which is to engage around the authorization at the beginning – not five months in – about whether we should initiate war.”
“Constitutionally it’s required,” he said. “But I’m driven by a more important value – I don’t think it’s fair to ask people … to risk their lives – to give their lives – in a mission if Congress hasn’t had a debate and put their thumbprint on it and said this is in the national interest. If we ‘re not willing to do that, how can we ask people to risk their lives?”
“I think it would be foolish to leave here this week or next, to adjourn,” Kaine continued. “For those of us who do not believe that the ‘01 or ‘02 authorizations give this a legal authority, every day we have been on offense without Congress we believe is an unauthorized war. We believe it’s a Congressional abdication of our oath of office and of our fundamental constitutional responsibilities.”
Since June 2014, Kaine has been urging the administration to seek a specific authorization for military action against ISIL while pressing his Congressional colleagues to debate and vote on the mission. In September, Kaine introduced a draft authorization, key provisions of which have been incorporated into the version expected to now be marked up by the committee on Thursday, December 11.