Rand Paul challenges John Kerry on War Powers Act

John Kerry

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next Secretary of State, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to discuss the administration’s foreign policy. While the confirmation hearing was mostly easy for Kerry, he did face a tough line of questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Paul, who has been a frequent critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of both parties, asked Kerry about his views regarding unilateral war, specifically regarding military action in Libya.

“I agree with candidate Barack Obama, who said in 2007 that the president doesn’t have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” explained Paul. “I’d like to know if you agree with candidate Barack Obama or President Barack Obama, who took us to war in Libya without congressional authority, unilaterally?”

Kerry responded, “Well, Senator Paul, one of the things this committee has spent a lot of time on is the War Powers Act, which I support, and I believe in congressional authority to go to war.” However, Kerry tried to give himself some latitude, explaining that “are occasions which I have supported which a President of the United States has to make a decision immediately and implement that decision, execute on it, immediately.” Kerry listed occasions where he has supported a president bypassing Congress, explaining that he though President Obama went with that tradition when he authorized military action in Libya.

“I would argue though that the Constitution really has no exceptions for when you’re having a tough time or when people disagree with you that you just go ahead and do it,” Paul retorted.

He then asked Kerry, who protested the Vietnam War after serving in it, about the bombing in Cambodia. “In the early 1970s, you know, after Vietnam, you were quite critical of the bombing in Cambodia because I think you felt that it wasn’t authorized by Congress,” noted Paul. “Has your opinion changed about the bombing in Cambodia — how’s Cambodia different than Libya?” Kerry responded, “Yeah, it is because it was an extension of a war that was being prosecuted without the involvement of Congress after a number of years.”

Unpersuaded, Paul explained that the circumstances were very similar, noting that it was a “bombing campaign unauthorized by Congress.” Paul took the opportunity to again explain constitutional ramifications, noting that there is no latitude to get around Congress when it comes to war.

Watch the full exchange below:

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