Sunday, November 04, 2007

Congressional call for new "war powers" act

Though virtually ignored by mainstream media, three Democrats and three anti-war Republicans introduced in the House last week what they have dubbed the Constitutional War Powers Resolution, which seeks to improve upon the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
“The framers of our Constitution sought to decentralize the war powers of the United States and construct a balance between the political branches. Throughout American history, this balance too often has been ignored,” Congressman Jones said. “Since U.S. involvement in Korea, presidents of both parties have used military force abroad without the consent of Congress.”

“Our Constitution states that – while the Commander in Chief has the power to conduct wars – only Congress has the power to declare war. Too many times this Congress has not met its constitutional duty of oversight & has abdicated its constitutional authorities to the executive branch. It is for this reason that I have introduced H. J. Res. 53 – the Constitutional War Powers Resolution,” Jones said. “As threats to international peace and security continue to evolve, the Constitutional War Powers Resolution rededicates Congress to its primary constitutional role of deciding when to use force abroad.”

Virginia Sloan, President of The Constitution Project, a nonpartisan organization that seeks consensus solutions to difficult legal and constitutional issues, said: “The bipartisan Constitutional War Powers Resolution is a significant step towards restoring the checks and balances established in the Constitution.”
Here's some details:
The resolution would limit the types of short-term deployments allowed without congressional action, decrease the amount of time troops could be deployed without congressional approval and require more consultation and reporting from the president.

"We need to ensure that Congress meets its constitutional responsibility," the North Carolina Republican said.

The existing resolution does not limit the types of short-term deployments of troops without congressional action and allows 60 days after deployment of forces "into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances," with a 30-day extension to remove troops.

The newly introduced resolution would only allow short-term deployments to repel and retaliate for an attack on the U.S., to repel an attack on U.S. troops and to protect and evacuate U.S. citizens. The resolution would not allow federal funding for any other initiation of hostilities.

The new resolution also limits deployments without congressional approval to 30 days after "the initiation of hostilities" by U.S. forces and does not allow for extensions.
Chris Weigant over at the Huffington Post analyzes the Constitution, the original act, and the implications of the update in terms of a possible separation of powers battle

The provisions for expedited judicial review and prohibiting funding to enforce compliance with the resolution seem particularly strong. Who knows if this has any change of passage, but it's clear that presidents - Republicans and Democrats - pay only lip service to the current War Powers Act and, worse, Congress has all but delegated its constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force. This is badly needed legislation that will be necessary to reign in future administrations for the executive excesses we saw under President Bush. And with Bush and most of the Republican presidential hopefuls threatening Iran these days, it can't be enacted soon enough.

Please write your representative and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.


Devon and Matt said...

While I agree that the US needs to tighten up on the "War Powers Act", I wonder why it should come on the prospect of a Democrat President in 2008. Isn't this a bit like locking the gate AFTER the fox has stolen all the hens!? The problem is immediate not in the future. We have an out of control "Commander in Chief" who is acting as if we're at war and assuming control of the US and involved us in a civil war in Iraq and is now planning to attack another country (Iran) in, yet another, "pre-emptive war". We need to introduce some laws with immediate effect to stop the Bush Regime from hijacking the Constitution any further and NOW! Other than that, this is a good idea!

adam said...

I believe their intent is to pass this ASAP, but that is likely not possible given Bush would veto and Republicans could sustain an override.