Kaine: White House sending mixed signals on Iraq

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineBooker tries to find the right lane  Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations MORE (D-Va.) expressed frustration Thursday at mixed signals from the White House over whether it would seek authorization before taking military action in Iraq.

Kaine said authorizing military action is one of Congress's most important powrs, and that his "skins crawls" at the notion lawmakers would abdicate their authoity.

"The most sober power that we have in government, and the most important power that Congress has, is that power to determine whether we initiate military action or not," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And the notion of on well, don't bring it to us because we are nervous about it just makes my skin crawl."

Kaine said authorizations of military force passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002 do not apply to the current situation in Iraq, even though Democratic leaders in Congress have suggested they would allow President Obama to take action.


It is unclear if the administration would seek authorization from Congress if it does take action in Iraq, something Kaine commented upon. 

"And we are getting frankly mixed signals out of the White House,” he said. “Sometimes they say have authority, sometimes they acknowledge there is some limits to it.”

Kaine has been one of the most vocal Democrats arguing that President Obama needs to seek authorization before taking military action in Iraq, where Sunni extremists have taken over large parts of the country. 

He wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on Wednesday and spoke about it on the Senate floor, arguing the 2001 authorization Congress passed in the wake of 9/11 should be updated. 

The authorization of military force Congress passed in 2001 allowed the administration to target al Qaeda and affiliated groups. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which is threatening Baghdad, formerly had ties to the terrorist organization but is not a part of al Qaeda, Kaine said. 

The other 2002 authorization of force in Iraq in now defunct, Kaine said, and even the administration wants it repealed. 

Kaine said Obama still has the ability to use military force to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. 

"And that is a circumstance where the president can act unilaterally to defend American lives. The framers of the constitution understood that would be the case," he said.