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Kaine Said Obama Needed Congressional Approval to Fight ISIS

Clinton campaign says she is pushing for a new force authorization

Sen. Tim Kaine was named Hillary Clinton's running mate Friday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Tim Kaine was named Hillary Clinton's running mate Friday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Hillary Clinton’s choice to be her running mate  said President Barack Obama “must seek congressional approval” to execute the war against the Islamic State in Iraq.  

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., took the position that put him closer to people like Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has a more limited view of the commander-in-chief’s power, than to the Obama White House.  

His position has been generally sweeping, providing an exception for efforts to protect U.S. embassies, for instance.  

Clinton’s campaign was measured in response to a question Friday about whether the former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee supported an authorization for the use of military force that’s been a top legislative priority for Kaine.  

“Hillary Clinton agrees with Senator Kaine that if we are serious about confronting ISIS, Congress ought to express its resolve to stand behind our military and win this fight by passing a new AUMF, and she has publicly applauded Kaine’s efforts,” Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Lehrich said in a statement to Roll Call.  

Clinton has long advocated for new authority from Congress to go after ISIS, but she has sounded more accepting of the administration’s explanation for relying on the force authorization approved after the 2001 terror attack on the United States. Clinton served in the Senate at that time.  

During a Democratic primary debate last November, Clinton said, “we have an authorization to use military force against terrorists. We — passed it after 9/11.”  

That prompted moderator John Dickerson of CBS to ask, “And you think that covers all of it?”  

Clinton replied that, “certainly does cover it,” but adding that she wants revisions to address current circumstances. She also said that her view, were she still in the Senate, would be in favor of a need for Congress to act.  

“It would have to go through the Congress. And I know the White House has actually been working with members of Congress,” Clinton said. “Maybe now we can get it moving again so that we can upgrade it so that it does include all the tools and everything in our arsenal that we can use to try to work with our allies and our friends, come up with better intelligence.”  

As a practical matter, there has been too wide of a gap between the advocates of a more limited authorization like the one proposed repeatedly by Kaine and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and the sweeping language offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., among others.  

Kaine had said he wanted a floor debate on use of force questions as part of the fiscal 2016 defense spending debate, but that appropriations bill fell victim to a Democrat-led filibuster.  

But Kaine’s June 2014 floor speech merits reading in full , and it probably did not get the kind of public attention warranted at the time.  

“I do not believe that this president or any president has the ability, without congressional approval, to initiate military action in Iraq or anywhere else, except in the case of an emergency posing an imminent threat to the U.S. or its citizens,” he said.  

“And I also assert that the current crisis in Iraq, while serious and posing the possibility of a long-term threat to the United States, is not the kind of conflict where the president can or should act unilaterally. If the United States is to contemplate military action in Iraq, the president must seek congressional authorization.” Kaine said.  

Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski .

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