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Kaine Questions Administration Officials On Authorization For Use Of Military Force

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine questioned officials from the Department of Defense and State Department on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Kaine expressed serious concerns about the breadth and indefinite mandate of the AUMF approved by Congress nearly 13 years ago in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and urged Congress to take action to refine the open-ended authorization. 

“I have a number of concerns about the AUMF,” Kaine said. “Congress put in no temporal or geographic limitations. … And Administration witnesses testified last year before the Armed Services Committee, opining pretty blithely that the war, so declared, would last another 25-30 years. I don’t think that’s what Congress intended.” 

“But to my colleagues,” he continued, “this is something that I think only we can solve, because, as we heard from Administration witnesses in the Armed Services hearing last year, an executive is comfortable with a carte blanche. … They’re not going to move, I don’t think, as expeditiously to rein in a carte blanche as we probably need to.” 

Kaine also pressed the officials to identify national security activities the U.S. is engaged in right now that might not be possible without the current AUMF in place, including counterterrorism operations, follow-on forces in Afghanistan and continued detention of detainees at Guantanamo Bay because “if there is an effort to refine, we have to refine around what the concerns are,” Kaine said.  

Since taking office in 2013, Kaine has focused on issues of war powers and the authorization of the use of military force through his roles on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committee. He believes sending servicemembers into harm’s way is the most important decision political leaders make, yet throughout American history there has not been a consistent process for doing so. 

In January 2014, Kaine joined Senator John McCain to introduce the War Powers Consultation Act of 2014, legislation that would strengthen the consultative process between Congress and the President on whether and when to engage in military action. Kaine recently spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on his war powers reform efforts, and was featured in an NPR Radiolab piece that examines the 2001 AUMF.