Earlier this year, before anyone was talking about airstrikes in Iraq, the Obama administration made some quiet and unsuccessful moves to undo the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Obama, who had been in the Illinois state Senate at the time, had opposed the AUMF. He'd fulfilled a campaign promise by removing combat troops from Iraq. It was time to close the book.
The president's speculation is starting to haunt him. Niels Lesniewski reports that Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a freshman who was hand-picked by Obama to run his DNC in 2009, is arguing that the AUMF may not be sufficient legal justification for more airstrikes. "Since the Administration has conceded that the 2002 Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force is obsolete and should be repealed," says Kaine, "it is now up to the Administration to receive Congressional authorization for the current air campaign against IS."
Just a few days ago, in Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz said much the same. After his speech to the Iowa FAMiLY Leader, and after he said that the president needed to come to Congress to approve more military action in Iraq, I asked him if the AUMF wasn't sufficient for that.
"Congress has the authority to declare war," said Cruz. "Part of the reason that Congress has that check and balance on the president is that it forces him to explain: What is the military objective we're trying to accomplish? I believe initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case to seek congressional authorization."
Cruz deftly stepped around a follow-up question, from the Daily Beast's Ben Jacobs, about whether the War Powers Act that required this of the president was even constitutional. Neither Cruz nor Kaine suggested that Congress should return before its regularly scheduled post-recess period in order to work this out.