By Dave Ress
Copyright 2014 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — It took a Virginian teaming up with a war hero, but the question of how the United States ought to send young men and women off to war is now back before the U.S. Congress.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain joined up to put a new War Powers Act on the national agenda. Their aim is to replace the 40-year-old War Powers Resolution passed in the wake of the Vietnam War and pretty much ignored ever since.
"If we're going to ask our young men and women to risk their lives, they deserve to know the president and Congress have done the hard work of finding political consensus for that," Kaine said, speaking a few hours after he and McCain formally introduced the bill on Thursday.
It is a particularly pointed issue in Virginia, he told his fellow senators.
"Our map is a map of American military history, from Yorktown where the Revolutionary War ended to Appomattox where the Civil War ended to the Pentagon where 9/11 happened. That is who we are," he said. "These issues of war and peace matter so deeply to us as they do to all Americans."
He said afterwards that he's been troubled by the issue for years.
As a teenager watching the Vietnam War end and still later seeing the price Vietnam veterans paid as bitterness over the war lingered, Kaine said he has become obsessed with the idea that service men and women deserve to know the nation supports them when they fight. Last year, he said President Barack Obama should consult with Congress before starting any military action in Syria.
The Constitution says the president is commander-in-chief, and that it is Congress that has the power to declare war. But presidents have sent troops into harm's way more than 100 times without congressional authorization.