Bill to Amend the War Powers Resolution
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan thinks the President needs more power to make war. Below, his Senate floor statement on amending the War Powers Resolution. Among other things, Levin states,
“Today, I filed a bill that would amend the War Powers Resolution to authorize the President to act against non-State actors like ISIS, where he judges it necessary to address a continuing and imminent threat to the United States, subject to a resolution of disapproval by Congress under the War Powers Resolution.”
I believe that reads “War Powers Resolution to authorize the President to act against non-State actors like ISIS, where he judges it necessary“. Is this appearing more and more like a dictatorship?
plural noun: non-state actors
- an individual or organization that has significant political influence but is not allied to any particular country or state.
The “War Powers Clause” of the United States Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording:
[The Congress shall have Power…] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.
The Congressional Declaration of war on Japan was on December 8, 1941. Since then, the United States has only issued five other war declarations: against Germany and Italy (on December 11, 1941) and against Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania (on June 4, 1942).
And in total, war declarations were declared by Congress in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.
Some of the most life altering “Bills and Resolutions” have been passed between Christmas Eve and New years day.
The Senate passed the Federal Reserve Act December 23, 1913. It took many months and nearly straight party-line voting, but on December 23, 1913, the Senate passed and President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.
Secrecy was paramount. “Discovery,” wrote one attendee later, “simply must not happen, or else all our time and effort would have been wasted. If it were to be exposed publicly that our particular group had got together and written a banking bill, that bill would have no chance whatever of passage by Congress.”
Most members of congress had gone home for the holidays, but unfortunately the senate had not adjourned sene die (without day) so they were technically still in session. There were only three members still present. On a unanimous consent voice vote the 1913 Federal Reserve Act was passed. No objection was made, possibly because there was no one there to object.
The section of the NDAA granting the government the power to put citizens in military detention indefinitely and without the usual recourse to civil courts, was signed by the President on New Years Eve 2011.
With these things in mind, here is Senator Carl Levin’s complete Statement on the Senate floor;
Levin Senate floor statement on amending the War Powers Resolution
Mr. President, when the War Powers Resolution was passed over a Presidential veto in 1973, its supporters expected that the War Powers Resolution would ensure that a national dialogue takes place before the employment of the U.S. Armed Forces in hostilities.
The President, on the other hand, argued that the enactment of the legislation “would seriously undermine this Nation’s ability to act decisively and convincingly in times of international crisis.” In his veto message, President Nixon argued that: “As a result, the confidence of our allies in our ability to assist them could be diminished and the respect of our adversaries for our deterrent posture could decline. A permanent and substantial element of unpredictability would be injected into the world’s assessment of American behavior, further increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and war.”
The President was particularly concerned that the War Powers Resolution’s termination of certain authorities after 60 days unless extended by Congress would create unpredictability in U.S. foreign policy. The War Powers Resolution requires the President to consult “in every possible instance” prior to introducing U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities and to report to Congress within 48 hours when, absent a declaration of war, U.S. Armed Forces are introduced into “hostilities or … situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” After this report is submitted, the resolution requires that U.S. troops be withdrawn at the end of 60 days, unless Congress authorizes continued involvement by passing a declaration of war or some other specific authorization for continued U.S. involvement in such hostilities.
Every subsequent President has viewed the War Powers Resolution as an unconstitutional impingement on the President’s powers as Commander in Chief. As a result, the 60-day trigger in the Act has never been used to terminate hostilities, and the national dialogue envisioned by the authors of the Resolution has failed to come about.
At this very moment, our troops have been engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Syria for more than 60 days, without the enactment of an authorizing resolution by Congress. Some believe that the continuing hostilities are a violation of the War Powers Resolution. Others argue that the War Powers Resolution hasn’t been triggered, because our military actions can be justified under earlier authorizations. Either way, it is clear that the 60-day limitation in the Resolution has had no more force and effect in the case of the battle against ISIS than it did in earlier actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere.
I believe that the War Powers Resolution needs to be modernized to make it more relevant to the situations our military is likely to face in the 21st century – in particular, the ongoing struggle against new and evolving terrorist groups.
Today, I filed a bill that would amend the War Powers Resolution to authorize the President to act against non-State actors like ISIS, where he judges it necessary to address a continuing and imminent threat to the United States, subject to a resolution of disapproval by Congress under the War Powers Resolution. This approach would allow the President to take decisive action to address imminent terrorist threats, while reserving a clear role for Congress through a resolution of disapproval. I believe that this approach would provide for a national dialogue on the use of military force with respect to non-state actors like ISIS, while avoiding the dead end provided unworkable requirement of the current War Powers Resolution, under which congressional inaction could require U.S. troops to suddenly disengage from the enemy while in harm’s way.
My amendment would provide that the authority to use U.S. armed forces against non-state actors would terminate after 60 days unless either: (1) the President’s actions are based on a law providing for the use of military force against a non-state actor; or (2) the President notifies Congress that continued use of military force is necessary because the non-state actor poses a “continuing and imminent threat” to the United States or U.S. persons, and Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval under expedited procedures.
Expedited procedures under the War Powers Resolution would ensure that Congress considers the issue. Under these procedures, if a resolution of disapproval is filed in a timely manner by any Senator, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would have 15 calendar days to report the resolution or be discharged. The Senate would then have three days to consider the Resolution, with time equally divided between proponents and opponents of the measure. As with any joint resolution, the measure could be vetoed, and such a veto would be subject to an override vote in Congress.
I believe this approach would provide greater clarity for the Executive and Legislative branches and I hope a future Senate will consider it.