Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) warned President Barack Obama against taking action in Iraq without first getting authorization from Congress.
“I believe the president must come to Congress for authority to initiate any U.S. military action in Iraq,” Kaine wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
Kaine, who was Obama’s handpicked choice to chair the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011, invoked James Madison and the constitutional framers to explain problems with assertions from administration officials and members of Congress that Obama can act alone.
“The framers also understood that a president, exercising the powers of commander in chief, might need to act before Congress in an emergency situation,” Kaine said. “But, in such a case, there must be an imminent threat to the United States, and Congress must subsequently ratify a president’s actions.”
Obama met last week with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). During that meeting, McConnell said, the president “indicated he didn’t feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take.”
Pelosi said Obama does not need “any further legislative authority to pursue the particular options for increased security assistance discussed today.”
Kaine quoted founder James Madison’s words: “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.”
Kaine, a former Virginia governor, represents a state known for its history in the nation’s founding and with a large military population.
“The nation should not send U.S. service members into harm’s way unless there is a consensus among the civilian leadership — executive and legislative — that the mission is worth it,” Kaine wrote. “Ordering people to risk their lives without Washington doing the work necessary to reach a political consensus is immoral.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force to give President George W. Bush authority to use military action against Al Qaeda and affiliates. Congress passed a second authorization for military action Iraq in 2002.
“In the current Iraq crisis, neither authorization applies,” Kaine explained. “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not an al-Qaeda affiliate — in fact, it is openly battling with al-Qaeda in Syria — and administration officials have said that the 2002 AUMF is obsolete and should be repealed.”
He added that he considers ISIS a threat to U.S. interests, but believes Obama should work with Congress on the matter to update the previous use of force authorizations.
“President Obama said in May 2013 that he would work with Congress to update the 2001 AUMF,” Kaine said. “It is June 2014, and there has been no progress. The White House should submit to Congress a new draft authorization to deal with today’s threats.”
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