Marco Rubio Says Rand Paul's Islamic State Plan Would Micromanage Military

Rubio and Paul represent competing factions in the Republican Party over military issues.
Photographer: Mark Peterson/Redux

How’s this for role reversal: Marco Rubio says he’d vote against a plan from Rand Paul, his colleague in the U.S. Senate and a potential presidential primary rival, to authorize the use of military force in the Middle East.

It’s not quite what it seems. Rubio, who has proven to be among the most hawkish lawmakers,  said he opposed Paul’s proposal because it—like two similar plans from senators being considered by the Foreign Relations Committee—attempts to micromanage the military and would unwittingly aid U.S. enemies.

“What we have here now (are) three proposals on behalf of Congress that attempt to micromanage military tactics, and I oppose all three for that purpose,” the Floridian told Secretary of State John Kerry during a committee hearing on Tuesday. “And the other problem I have with it is that it clearly telegraphs to ISIL, to our enemies what we won’t or will do, where we will do it or will we won’t do it, and how long we’re going to do it for, which I think also takes a lot of the advantage away from our engagement.”

Paul would be interested to hear Rubio’s comments. The Kentucky lawmaker stood up as Rubio began his remarks and walked out of the hearing, returning a few minutes after Rubio finished up. The two senators represent competing factions within the Republican Party over the role of America's military in the world. Paul, who once proposed cutting foreign aid from the federal budget, voted against arming and training fighters in Syria and has claimed that the military action underway is illegal. Rubio took a jab at Paul during a foreign policy speech in September, suggesting that his colleague was adjusting his views to position himself for a presidential run.  “Some who aspire to be president have shown they would rather wait for poll numbers to change than demonstrate the leadership necessary to shape them,” Rubio said.

Rubio didn't wait around to hear Paul's take, either. He left the hearing before Paul had his turn to speak.

Paul used his time to volley the debate back to Rubio. While his rival wanted to remove most limitations on military authorization for President Barack Obama, Paul said he'd oppose any measure that didn't include geographical restrictions. Otherwise, Paul said the administration would be allowed to bomb Saudi Arabia, should the need arise.

"You want the authority, the unlimited authority to attack geographically anywhere in the world if someone pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State?" Paul asked Kerry. "That's absolutely why I cannot vote for any resolution that does not have a geographic restraint. And realize the message we send—if that's the message we're sending—that if Medina or Mecca pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, they are open to being bombed by the United States. That is a very, very scare and, I think, wrongheaded message to be sending to the Middle East."

Kerry bristled the hypothetical. "That statement is being made without any input or, frankly, consideration for the limits and strictures within which the United States of America is currently operating," Kerry said. "You need to go find out what restraints our military is currently operating under."

The Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a vote for Thursday.

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