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Senators to Push for ISIS War Debate on State Department Bill (Updated)

Kaine is partnering with Flake to amend the State Department authorization bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:13 p.m. | The efforts to force the Senate into a debate over the use of military force are continuing to grow.  

The bipartisan Senate duo of Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., are making a bid to amend the State Department authorization — scheduled to be considered Tuesday afternoon by the Foreign Relations Committee — with language to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The senators, who both serve on the Foreign Relations panel, plan to offer an amendment to the State Department measure, though the proposal may not be in order.  

Kaine has been pushing for the debate over a formal Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the group since last year, well before President Barack Obama sent a formal request to Congress in February that still hasn't seen legislative action.  

"It’s inexcusable that Congress has let 10 months of war go by without authorizing the U.S. mission against ISIL," Kaine said in a statement. "I'm proud to join Senator Flake in introducing what we hope will serve as a starting point for debate in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."  

"Our military has been waging war against ISIL since last September, and Congress has been appropriating funds to pay for those operations," Flake added. "It's past time for Congress to formally voice its support of the mission itself."  

As a model, Kaine pointed to the overwhelming consensus that ultimately emerged on the best path forward for legislation to provide congressional review of any final nuclear agreement between Iran and international negotiators.  

"I challenge my colleagues to demonstrate the same backbone on the issue of ISIL and finally come together to do what’s right for our troops and our nation," Kaine said.  

It was not immediately clear what the prospects of a war authorization debate could do to the plan by Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker to move forward with a rare authorization bill for the State Department, but it seems certain to add a new degree of contention to that debate.  

Later in the day, the Tennessee Republican offered praise for his two colleagues.  

"Many Democrats want to constrain current and future administrations, many Republicans question the administration's lack of a coherent strategy, and many on both sides believe the White House already has legal authority to combat ISIS," Corker said in a statement. "I appreciate the efforts of Senators Kaine and Flake to advance this important issue. The challenge remains that any new AUMF must create enough bipartisan consensus to become law and show that our country is united over the need to confront ISIS."  

The announcement by Kaine and Flake follows a move by Foreign Relations ranking Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland to file an amendment to the defense authorization on the Senate floor to provide a three-year sunset for the 2001 use of force authorization that was enacted in the aftermath of 9/11, as well as an effort by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley to end the authorization used by President George W. Bush for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.  

Related: McConnell: Only 'Local Boots on the Ground' Fighting in Iraq Obama on Fighting ISIS: 'We Don't Yet Have a Complete Strategy' Senators Hope to Force Votes on War Boehner: Obama Should Submit New ISIS War Request See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.