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US Democratic-Run Congress To Test Bounds Of Its War Powers January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Military News, Politics, US News.

WASHINGTON (AP)–In the U.S. system of checks and balances, the president is the commander in chief, with control of the military, but the Congress controls the money that pays for the armed forces’ operations.

The new Democratic-controlled Congress is facing the decision how it will use that power in the troubled conflict in Iraq.

No one challenges the notion that Congress can stop a war by refusing to give the executive branch the money to wage it. Vice President Dick Cheney has even suggested that Congress back up its objections to Bush’s plan to put 21,500 more troops in Iraq by zeroing out the war budget.

As Cheney certainly knows, such a move is doubtful because refusing to pay for troops in a combat zone would be an act fraught with political peril.

Other legislative options are available to force the war’s end, however, say majority Democrats and some of Bush’s traditional Republican allies.

The alternatives range from capping the number of troops permitted in Iraq to cutting off funding for troop deployments beyond a certain date or setting an end date for the war.

“The Constitution makes Congress a coequal branch of government. It’s time we start acting like it,” said Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold, who is chairing a hearing Tuesday on Congress’ war powers and forwarding legislation eventually to prohibit funding for the deployment of troops to Iraq.

His proposal, like many others designed to force an end to the conflict, is far from having enough support even to come up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Closer to that threshold is a nonbinding resolution declaring that Bush’s proposal to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and Anbar province is “not in the national interest.” The Senate could take up that measure early next month.

But some senators, complaining that the resolution is only symbolic, are forwarding tougher bills.
Sen. Barbara Boxer is a sponsor of a bill that would demand most troops come home in 180 days, leaving a minimum number of forces behind to hunt down terrorists and train Iraqi security forces.

“Read the Constitution,” Democrat Boxer told her colleagues last week. “The Congress has the power to declare war. And on multiple occasions, we used our power to end conflicts.”

This is true: Congress used its war powers to cut off or put conditions on funding for the Vietnam war and conflicts in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia.

But managing a war, in effect what Boxer and Feingold are proposing, is the president’s job, say some lawmakers and scholars.

“In an ongoing operation, you’ve got to defer to the commander in chief,” said Sen. John Warner, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The veteran senator and former Navy secretary also said he understands the debate over Congress’ ability to check the executive branch.

“Once Congress raises an army, it’s his to command,” said Robert Turner, a law professor at the University of Virginia who was to testify Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In recent decades, presidents routinely bypassed Congress when deploying troops to fight. Not since World War II has Congress issued an official declaration of war, not even during major wars fought in Vietnam and Korea.

Congress does not have to approve military maneuvers.

John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer helped write the 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq invasion, called that document a political one designed only to bring Democrats on board and spread accountability for the conflict.

The resolution passed by a 296-133 vote in the then Republican-run House of Representatives and 77-23 in the Democratic-led Senate, but it was not considered a declaration of war.


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