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Congress moves to reclaim its war powers

The aftermath of a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP

Congress moves to reclaim its war powers

The aftermath of a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP

Congress moves to reclaim its war powers

The aftermath of a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP

Congress moves to reclaim its war powers

The aftermath of a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP

Whether this bill passes as is, or with significant changes, or not at all, its proposal signals an effort by lawmakers to reclaim power over military action and spending that Congress has gradually surrendered over decades.

The aftermath of a U.S. drone strike in January 2020 that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani. Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP

Sarah Burns, Rochester Institute of Technology

In mid-July 2021, a bipartisan and ideologically diverse group of senators proposed a new bill that, if passed, would dramatically shift the relative amount of power the president and Congress have over U.S. military operations.

Whether this bill passes as is, or with significant changes, or not at all, its proposal signals an effort by lawmakers to reclaim power over military action and spending that Congress has gradually surrendered over decades. It also puts pressure on presidents to evaluate their foreign policy objectives more clearly, to determine whether military action is, in fact, appropriate and justified.

As I’ve demonstrated in my research, even though the 1973 War Powers Resolution attempted to constrain presidential power after the disasters of the Vietnam War, it contains many loopholes that presidents have exploited to act unilaterally. For example, it allows presidents to engage in military operations without congressional approval for up to 90 days.

As a result of this shift from legislative oversight to presidential control, U.S. foreign policy has become less deliberative and administrations from both parties enjoy a significant amount of control over whether the U.S. calls in the armed forces to address developments overseas.

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