(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, is among the growing number of lawmakers in both parties who say President Obama must get congressional authorization for U.S. military action in Syria and Iraq.
"And so he needs to come to Congress again with respect to the threat that ISIL poses. And he needs to explain it and crisply define what a military mission would be. And then ...let Congress debate it and vote it up or down. That's what the framers of the Constitution intended," Kaine told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night.
"It's the right thing to do legally, it's the right thing to do morally, because if you're going to put servicemen and women in harm's way, you ought to try to get a political consensus first, that the mission is worth it. And it's the most likely way for things to work out well, after that kind of considered debate."
Kaine noted that there's only one circumstance when the president of the United States can unilaterally order military action -- "and that's when American lives are imminently threatened, whether it be an embassy or American troops -- when American lives are imminently threatened, the president, as commander in chief, has the ability to act first and then hopefully get congressional approval later.
"But when there's no imminent threat to American life, the framers of the Constitution were very, very clear...that we put the decisions about declaration of war in the hands of Congress, the people's elected representatives, and what that forces is the president to be disciplined, come explain a mission, to have that debate which educates the American public, and then to make a decision, knowing that once it's made -- if there's a decision made to go forward -- you've got a political consensus, and you're not asking servicemen and women to risk their lives with the political class not having done the work to describe whether the mission is worth it or not."
Kaine said the clock is already ticking on President Obama's decision to launch air strikes on ISIS/ISIL terrorists in Iraq.
The 60 days allowed by the War Powers Act "really starts to run when we get back," Kaine said. He said the president in the next two weeks should define the military mission in Iraq -- "because it's clear by word and action that the president, the head of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of defense thinks we need to engage militarily to stop the momentum of ISIL.
"But they ought to describe what the mission is and what we hope to achieve -- so we can educate the American public and let the people's representatives cast a vote of approval or disapproval, as the Framers intended."
For the record, the very liberal Rachel Maddow said that based on her conversations, it appears that most members of Congress "absolutely don't want to be asked, they don't want to handle this hot potato.
"This implicitly gives the administration the ability to do this (military strikes without authorization) for as long as they can. Your member of Congress at home... ought to be clamoring to get this authorization vote happening," Maddow said.
"This should not be the White House deciding whether or not they're putting it to Congress. Congress ought to be taking this responsibility and running with it. They ought to be calling themselves back from vacation to deal with this right now. They really care about this? This is Congress's imperative. No waiting on the White House on this. Congress ought to do it -- in my opinion."
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