War against ISIS: What does Rand Paul's 'yes' mean?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is considering a presidential bid in 2016.

Story highlights

  • Rand Paul says he doesn't support arming Syrian rebels in ISIS fight
  • But he says "yes" when asked whether he would vote to go to war against ISIS
  • Part of the President's plan to fight ISIS includes arming Syrian rebels
Sen. Rand Paul has gotten questions from the media lately at nearly every stop and in almost every interview about where he stands on combating the threat of ISIS.
Because he's seriously thinking about running for president, his positions on major issues are being carefully scrutinized.
In an interview Monday on Fox News, Paul was asked: "If a vote were to come to Congress to ask you to go to war against ISIS -- and to call it that -- would you vote yes?"
"Yes," he responded, though he added that he'd try to sunset the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a measure that the Obama administration is using as the legal basis for airstrikes against ISIS.
It was passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks and has been used for military action against terrorism ever since.
"I do favor doing something about ISIS. I would vote yes," he continued.
While Paul gave a general "yes" to the broad question of going to war with ISIS, his position appears to be much more nuanced. And it's possible he could be voting "no" to a key element of the President's ISIS plan in the near future.
Paul has said he doesn't support the arming and training of vetted Syrian rebels to fight against the militant group. The United States has already supplied arms to Syrian rebels in the past year, and Paul said Monday on CBS that it would be a "mistake" to ramp up that effort.
"Most of the arms we've given to the so-called 'moderate' rebels have wound up in the hands of ISIS, because ISIS simply takes it from them, or it's given to them, or we mistakenly actually give it to some of the radicals," he said on "This Morning."
Congress plans to start voting as early as Wednesday on arming and training the rebels. A provision is being added to a must-pass stopgap spending bill and is expected to pass in the House.
It's also expected to pass in the Senate with bipartisan support, but the timing and process is not exact.
It seems that if a measure came to the Senate that only approves the training/arming of Syrian rebels, Paul would not support such action. His political adviser, Doug Stafford, told CNN that the senator "said he would vote to authorize strikes against ISIS, not arm their allies."
And what if President Obama were to come to Congress, as Paul has requested, and ask for approval for airstrikes and arming the rebels, all in the same package?
Stafford said, "There are a lot of variables and (Paul) will read the language" of any authorization measure brought forward before he makes a decision. "There will be many factors and the specifics are important," he added.