The nation may have gotten a little taste of 2016 Republican presidential politics Thursday as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky squared off with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on foreign policy.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup, Paul, a potential 2106 presidential candidate, offered an amendment setting geographic limits to an Authorization for Use of Military Force cleared by the committee that would set parameters on the nation’s fight against the terror group known as Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL.
The amendment failed on a 13 to 5 vote. But the preceding debate, which was respectful, saw Paul and Rubio, who may also seek the Republican nomination for president, disagree over how much Congress should rein in the commander in chief.
The split highlights a debate within the party over America’s role abroad that will likely play out in the run up to 2016. Paul, a critic of recent Republican and Democratic foreign policy, argued that inserting language in the AUMF that would limit the fight to Iraq and Syria would keep the effort from involving the nation in “a worldwide war.”
He was also critical of the AUMF applying to “associated forces.” Paul cited a group called Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium that lists 60 jihadist groups that are allied with ISIS in 30 different countries.
“There is a tendency for executives from both parties to abuse this wording and to make it mean anything they want,” Paul said, adding that the authorization is too open-ended with out a geographic limit.
Paul said that if ISIS moves beyond the limit, Congress can revisit the issue and vote to broaden the fight.
Rubio said the amendment would be too limiting because he believes ISIS could quickly redeploy itself to another location, such as parts of Libya where they are entrenched.
“They are not just in Libya, they control an entire province in Libya and, unlike Iraq or Syria, they have no one to fight there, there is no government to push back against them,” Rubio said.
“This is a situation that has the potential to develop much faster than any language that we could craft to deal with it,” Rubio said.
Rubio penned an op-ed in the Washington Post Friday urging Congress to empower the president to effectively fight ISIS.
"Instead of giving the president what he needs to win this struggle, many in the Senate seem more focused on telling him what he should not do," Rubio wrote.
Four Democrats voted with Paul, including Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who will be the minority whip in the next Congress. But most of the panel opposed the proposal, including chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who will be ranking member beginning next year, and current ranking member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who will lead the panel next year.
The committee cleared the AUMF on a 10 to 8 party-line vote, but it’s not expected to be considered on the Senate floor before the end of the session.
After the markup, Paul said he intends to continue to push the issue next year.
“I pledge to do the same thing next year too,” Paul said. “So if they are not forthcoming with hearings and a vote on the AUMF then I will continue to put my amendments on their bills and cause them a little bit of heartburn.”
“But realize they only did this under duress, they did not choose to do this … and really the committee only did it’s duty with a little pushing and shoving,” Paul said.
The markup was scheduled after a surprise effort last week by Paul to try to attach a Declaration of War against ISIS to an unrelated water bill the committee was considering.
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