Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Saturday that the Obama administration should consult Congress further over American involvement in Libya’s civil war.
“I do think in things like this, err on the side of caution and go to Congress,” Kaine said in an interview after a campaign stop in Charlottesville.
When asked whether the War Powers Act legally requires the White House to get congressional approval for Libya, Kaine was noncommittal.
“I’m not the lawyer on that,” Kaine said, adding that the president had a “good rationale” for going in, given that sanctions had failed and the United Nations and the Arab League signed off on intervention.
The War Powers Act of 1973 prohibits U.S. military action for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day period for withdrawal. The 60-day deadline passed last month. The 90-day mark is today.
The Obama administration released a legal rationale this week arguing that activities in Libya do not amount to “hostilities” because U.S. forces are “playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition.” With that reasoning, Obama has concluded that he does not need further authorization from Congress.
Kaine made the Libya remarks after a campaign stop at C’Ville Coffee, where he received a warm welcome from a strongly Democratic crowd of more than 100.
The former Democratic National Committee chairman is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Webb, D-Arlington, who has pushed for more clarity from the White House regarding the ongoing operations in Libya.
On June 8, Webb and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced a joint resolution on Libya calling for the president to request congressional authorization.
“The issue for us to consider is whether a president — any president — can unilaterally begin, and continue, a military campaign for reasons that he alone defines as meeting the demanding standards worthy of risking American lives and expending billions of dollars of our taxpayers’ money,” Webb said in a statement announcing the resolution. “It is important for Congress to step in and clearly define the boundaries of our involvement.”
Foreign policy was largely absent from Kaine’s stump speech, in which he reiterated his familiar campaign phrase: “America has challenges but Virginia has answers.”
Virginia’s economy has improved immensely over the past 50 years, Kaine said, largely by making investments in education.
“I’m going to go to Washington, really emphasizing, if you invest in your folks from pre-K to post-grad to workforce development … if you do that, that’s the strength of the economy,” Kaine said.
Kaine also touted his record of fiscal responsibility as governor, saying “there’s a right way and a wrong way” to make cuts.
Though Kaine is running in a battleground state and has polled in a virtual tie with former Gov. George Allen, the Republican frontrunner, he declared he will not distance himself from the Democratic Party.
“I’m a very proud Democrat,” Kaine said. “I will never be one of those Democratic candidates that distances myself from my party or my president. I’m proud of my party. I’m proud of my president.”
Kaine got some encouragement in that regard from Charlottesville resident Rose Brown.
“I really want to see the Democrats stand up and fight for what is right,” Brown said.
Brown said that former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s fighting attitude was the reason he remained popular in his district despite the scandal that led to his eventual resignation.
Kaine said he, too, is a fighter who knows how to win close electoral races, but defended his decision to call for Weiner’s resignation.
“I’m not a chest-beater,” Kaine said. “Sometimes you can mistake flamboyant personality for spine.”