Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) charged Thursday that the Obama administration is violating the Constitution by falsely claiming it has the power to step up efforts against the Islamic State, without first getting explicit authorization from Congress.
Paul is one of many members who say the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force allowing the U.S. to fight terrorists is not enough to authorize efforts against the Islamic State. But despite these complaints, the administration is expected to start its effort without securing any approval from Congress, although it will get approval for some specific actions in Syria.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Democrats are being 'intellectually dishonest' for saying they have the authority to step up the fight against the Islamic State without congressional authority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
"You are intellectually dishonest if you argue that something passed in 2001 to do with the people who attacked us in 9/11 has anything to do with sending arms into Syria," Paul said on the Senate floor. "It's intellectually dishonest and to say otherwise, you are an intellectually dishonest person."
"I said it frankly yesterday," he added. "Mr. President, what you are doing is illegal and unconstitutional."
The White House has said Article II of the Constitution gives the it some flexibility to take steps to protect U.S. security interests. Some supportive Democrats have said this argument should let the White House act in the short term without any new authority.
But Paul said even that argument is based on an incorrect reading of the Constitution.
"It's absolutely incorrect," he said. "We give power to the commander in chief to execute the war, but we were explicit that the wars were to be initiated by Congress."
Paul has said he opposes the administration's plan to arm and train Syrian rebels because it's getting in the way of a civil war, and is expected to vote against the resolution authorizing that action later Thursday. The administration has also said it has the authority to increase airstrikes against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, and appears prepared to take that step without any new congressional authority, at least in the short term.
Paul also criticized Democrats for remaining silent about Obama's attempt to engage in new military activities without any authorization, and said he will only get away with it because he's a Democrat.
"Many on the other side have been better on this issue. When there was a Republican in office, there were loud voices on the other side. I see an empty chamber," Paul said.
"There will be no voices against war because this is a Democrat president's war," he said. "The hypocrisy of that should resound in this nearly empty chamber."
Paul delivered a 45-minute address on foreign policy, which you can watch here: