ISIL calls for congressional action

Published 6:44 pm Monday, May 18, 2015

By Sen. Tim Kaine

On May 7, I spoke on the Senate floor to recognize an anniversary.

“Today marks the completion of nine months of America’s war against ISIL,” I told my colleagues. “Tomorrow, May 8, starts the 10th month of this war.”

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As I spoke, I reminded my fellow senators of all that our country has sacrificed since the United States began its military mission against ISIL. We have deployed thousands of troops to the region, including the Norfolk-based Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.

We have lost the lives of American service members and seen hostages killed in the most gruesome of ways. And we have spent more than $2 billion in taxpayer funding to launch more than 3,000 airstrikes against the terrorist group.

Despite these many sacrifices from service members and the American public, Congress has not done its own job to debate the parameters of this mission, effectively allowing the president to unilaterally wage a war without the input of the legislative branch.

Last Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported out a bill to authorize the mission, but the Senate neglected to hold a floor vote or even a debate on the measure. The House of Representatives has done even less by failing to hold on a vote on an authorization in any of its committees.

Such negligence is shameful and perpetuates the narrative that Congress can’t come together and reach an agreement on pressing issues, even its most solemn responsibility to declare war.

However, only a few hours after I decried Congress’ unwillingness to come together and act on this issue, movement on another urgent matter renewed my hope that such irresponsibility might end.

That Thursday afternoon, with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the Senate approved the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to set out a framework under which Congress would review and debate the Obama administration’s final nuclear agreement with Iran.

This bill balances the noble hope for a diplomatic path to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions with the constitutional necessity and constructive value of allowing Congress to weigh in on the final deal.

By passing such a bill, the Senate has proved that it can act in a bipartisan way to assert an appropriate congressional role on a critical matter of foreign policy.

The overwhelming support the bill received was the product of a concerted and collaborative effort to balance many viewpoints from both sides of the aisle and consider the sincere concerns many senators, including myself, had with earlier drafts of this legislation.

That the Senate came to a broad agreement on such a significant and difficult issue demonstrates that Congress can build a consensus around guidelines for the ongoing mission against ISIL.

After nine months of inaction as American service members risk their lives abroad, I hope that my fellow members of Congress can recognize what we can achieve when we let bipartisanship and cooperation prevail. It’s time to do our job and finally define and authorize this war.

Contact Senator Kaine through his website at or through his offices in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Abingdon, Danville, Roanoke, Manassas or Washington, D.C.