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Kaine Statement Following Senate Foreign Relations Committee AUMF Briefing

WASHINGTON, D.C. --Below is an excerpt of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine’s remarks following today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on authorizations for the use of military force. Kaine’s remarks have been lightly edited for clarity.

“The Administration believes, as did the previous Administration, that they have they have the legal authority to conduct the military operations they are conducting. There is some significant difference of opinion about that among Committee members and in Congress – that’s nothing new. But the Administration, through General Dunford and Secretary Mattis, and I think the chair, Chairman Corker, believes this too: Setting aside the legal question, sixteen years after the 9/11 authorization, it would be a good idea to do it again. Secretary Mattis, repeated a testimony he had given earlier, that’s very similar to General Dunford’s testimony, that if you do an authorization now you express a congressional resolve, which is really the American public’s resolve, and send a message to our allies, you send a message to our adversaries, and you send a message of support to our troops. So they were very open to the idea of working on an authorization not because they feel like they legally have to have it, but they think for the mission itself it would be good to have Congress engaged in that way. They would not want an authorization to put restrictions that would be either tactically unwise or tread over into Article II territory, obviously. But we spent some time talking about the version that Senator Flake and I have in, kind of conceptually, and you know General Mattis, I think understands the way we have tried to deal with the issues of naming the group we are fighting, defining what an associated force would be, naming the geography where we are fighting and talking about the duration …It was a very productive discussion and really the first that I’ve had in the time I’ve been on the committee where it seemed like there were more elements where you could cobble together some common ground. I don’t want to predetermine the next steps but I felt very, very good that it was a very productive meeting.”

Kaine has long been a leading voice in the Senate on Congress’s role in authorizing military action and the need for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS. In 2013, Kaine voted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to authorize military force against Syria following Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people.  In May, Kaine and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake introduced a bipartisan AUMF against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Kaine and Flake’s bipartisan AUMF explicitly authorizes military action against the three terrorist groups, gives Congress an oversight role it currently lacks over who can be considered to be “associated” with the terrorist groups and in which countries military action can take place, and provides an expedited process for Congress to re-authorize this AUMF in five years. Lastly, it repeals the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs. Full text of the AUMF is available here.