Feedback
Politics

Rand Paul: War Against ISIS ‘Illegal Until Congress Acts’

Image: Senator Rand Paul addresses the crowd at U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's midterm election night rally in Louisville

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) addresses the crowd at U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's midterm election night rally in Louisville, Kentucky, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/John Sommers II (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) JOHN SOMMERS II / Reuters

Senator Rand Paul continues to insert his unconventional views into the nation’s foreign policy debate as the 2016 presidential contest gets closer.

The Kentucky Republican has unveiled a proposal that would officially declare war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The move is an attempt to both rein in presidential war powers and better define the fight against the extremist group that has brutally captured northern portions of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

In addition to declaring war, Paul’s proposal sets limitations in the fight against ISIS, including limiting the use of combat ground forces except when Americans are in “imminent danger,” intelligence reasons or for specific high value topics. Those constraints put Paul at odds with other potential GOP nominees who have derided the president for ruling out ground troops.

“Right now this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it,” Paul said in a statement.

In September, President Barack Obama expanded the fight against ISIS, promising to “degrade and destroy” the group. Congress left town to campaign for the midterms before debating and authorizing the expanded war against ISIS, and GOP leaders have indicated that they likely won’t take up the authorization debate before next year.

Paul maintains that the Constitution says it is Congress’ job to declare war.

“Right now this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it,” Paul said in a statement.

Paul’s resolution also attempts to limit previous war authorizations -- used by both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush -- to justify the use of expanded missions and new conflicts. It would end the 2002 authorization for war in Iraq – a war that is technically over despite a recent increase in the U.S. troop presence there to curb the expansion of ISIS. Paul’s measure would also add an expiration date to the 2001 war authorization for Afghanistan - or forces Congress to reauthorize it every year.

While he will push for the Senate to act during the lame-duck session, he has not received any commitment from Senate leaders. His aides say Paul has spoken with Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who has also been advocating for a new war authorization, about his idea.

Paul’s proposal is his latest attempt to shape a foreign policy with positions that often don’t fit inside an ideological box. For instance, last spring, he held up the nomination of John Brennan, the nominee to head the CIA, because of the U.S.’s use of drones.

His opponents within the GOP have not been shy about criticizing him. After comments surfaced of him accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney of pushing the Iraq War because it would benefit Halliburton, his former employer, Rick Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review Online, wrote that that position is “a staple of the left.”

While Paul’s foes label him an “isolationist,” he’s worked to brand himself as a “realist.” But as the aspiring presidential candidate faces the realities of a hawkish Republican Party, he has softened some his views. He walked back previous budget proposals that ended financial support for Israel, for example, and he has modified his staunch opposition to intervention after Russia’s usurpation of Crimea.

But he hasn’t completely lost his edge. In September, he remained adamantly opposed to arming Syrian rebels, a position that put him at odds with most of his Republican colleagues.

He even took to the Senate floor during the September debate over Syria to suggest that more hawkish members of his party “never met a war they didn’t like.”