Video: Kaine Presses Tillerson & Mattis On The Need For A New AUMF
“I have a hard time understanding your opposition to our resolution as anything other than ‘we do not want Congressional oversight.’”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, pressed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the need for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. In the hearing, Kaine highlighted key components of the bipartisan Flake/Kaine AUMF that he and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake introduced in May. Kaine reiterated the importance of passing a new AUMF to not only legally authorize current operations against terrorist groups, but to also send a message of resolve to the troops, the American public, and U.S. allies that Congress supports the mission. Kaine raised concerns that U.S. counterterrorism operations have turned into a ‘forever war’ that has mutated across the globe without needed Congressional authorization. Kaine introduced a military contract solicitation for the record that demonstrates that the U.S. counterterrorism operation in Africa is far greater than Americans were aware of, which became evident after the recent deaths of American servicemembers in Niger and Mali.
“The question of this hearing is whether we can be in an endless war with no Congressional vote against newly formed terrorist groups all over the world, forever. We’re in year 17 and I have heard testimony before that this could go on for generations with no vote of Congress. The recent deaths of four American troops in Niger, and news about a June death of a Green Beret in Mali while deployed there on a special forces mission, raise many questions about the geographic scope of the American military campaign against terrorism,” Kaine said. “And I repeat here what I have often said many times in the last four years—it’s time for Congress to have a public debate and vote about an authorization for U.S. military action against non-state terrorist groups. Many of us believe we are legally required to do so; others believe if not required, we would be wise to do so. Secretary Mattis has testified in support of this on earlier occasions, as has the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford. Our troops and the American public deserve an open debate and vote on the extent of military operations if not in year 17, in year 30, in year 40, in year 50.”
Senator Kaine then asked Mattis and Tillerson about specific objections the Administration made in a September 5 letter on the Flake/Kaine AUMF, and after receiving insufficient answers, he said, ”I have a hard time understanding your opposition to our resolution as anything other than ‘we do not want Congressional oversight.’”
Kaine concluded, “This is a constitutional power. And we shouldn’t be putting troops into harm’s way – and as Congress – standing back trying not to have our fingerprints on this when it’s mutating all over the globe. I think it’s a forever war, and I worry about deeply about handing the power over to President’s to do this without the feel of need to come to Congress at all.”
Kaine will submit a question for the record (QFR) to Tillerson and Mattis asking for a detailed list of all the groups that have been designated associated persons or forces under the 2001 AUMF and a list of all countries where the U.S. military is currently acting pursuant to that Authorization to give the American public a clear scope of our military campaign around the world.
Kaine has long been a leading voice in the Senate on Congress’s role in authorizing military action and the need for a new 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. Kaine and Flake’s bipartisan AUMF explicitly authorizes military action against the ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, 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. And last week, Kaine called on Secretary Mattis to provide information on the Department of Defense “advise and assist” missions and details on the legal authorities that justify them following the attack on U.S. servicemembers in Niger.