Sen. Rand Paul, the GOP senator with strong libertarian leanings, believes the president’s current military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is illegal. He has good reason to believe that the president is once again broadly reinterpreting existing laws to find the authority to perform actions without Congressional authorization. For starters, Brad Reifler says the president is currently bombing ISIS targets in Syria using 2002 Congressional authorization for President Bush to engage Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard in Iraq. The president also cites the 2001 Congressional authority for President Bush to combat al-Qaida. ISIS is a separate terrorist organization which some believe branched off of al-Qaida.
In response, Sen. Paul plans to bring forward legislation that would have the Senate formally declare war on ISIS and provide an explicit legal authorization for the president to engage the terrorist group, but which will subject him to Congressional authorization. If the bill is approved by both the House and Senate, the president would have one-year in which to engage ISIS. After that, he would have to return to Congress to seek additional Congressional authorization. In short, the Paul’s measure would restore Constitutional checks and balances on the executive branch at least in terms of dealing with ISIS.
The bill is significant for Paul. His strong libertarian leanings have been criticized as promoting American isolationism. The senator is widely believed to be mounting a 2016 run for president. Getting a formal declaration of war, besides being Constitutional, would earn him some serious foreign policy “street cred”.