Sen. Kaine: We’re in ISIS war ‘without legal authority’

Posted at 4:00 PM, Nov 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-13 00:17:28-05

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Tim Kaine said Wednesday there's no legal authority for the current U.S. mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

"We have been engaged in a war -- that is not about imminent defense of the United States -- without legal authority," the Virginia Democrat said at the Wilson Center on Wednesday, ahead of a panel discussion on the legal authority for military intervention, moderated by CNN's Jim Sciutto.

The mission is not covered by either the wording or intent of the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force as the White House argues, Kaine said, adding that such an argument is "ridiculous" and inconsistent with President Barack Obama's previously stated interpretation of the AUMF.

Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed a new, limited authorization, specifically targeted to the current mission against ISIS. "We should deal with it right away," he said, stressing that it could be accomplished in the lame-duck session in Congress.

He's also calling for changes to the War Powers Resolution that will result in a "better process" for war authorization.

In a statement last week, Kaine said he was "encouraged" by Obama's recent willingness to work with Congress on a new authorization, but also "troubled by suggestions today that Congress should wait until the new Congressional session in 2015 to take this vote."

"We have already asked too many U.S. service members to risk their lives without a political consensus behind this mission," he added.

The current AUMF was passed in 2001, just days after the 9/11 attacks. Though the language of the authorization only covers military action against those who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons," in recent years it has been used to cover action against any group or individual the administration considers associated with al Qaeda.

A second authorization for use of military force against Iraq was passed in 2002, permitting the president to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."