Wednesday, May 14, 2014

war powers revisions

There is a serious bipartisan effort under way to revise the war powers regime with a new law to replace the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Senator Tim Kaine [D-VA], lead sponsor with John McCain [R-AZ] spoke about it at CSIS today, and I had a chance to offer my own suggestions. See video here. The draft bill, S. 1939, offers two major improvements over the current law: [1] it changes the focus from ground troops "equipped for combat" to "significant armed conflicts" lasting more than a week; [2] it forces Congress to vote on the operation, in contrast to its long record of abdicating responsibility by avoiding definitive legislation either pro or con.

Sen. Kaine admitted that the bill was still being reviewed for possible changes, and I suggested one in line with an article I wrote last year.  to cover lethal drone attacks and offensive cyber operations, I think we need a law like the one on the books since 1974 [that I helped write] requiring personal presidential decisions and notifications to Congress. I think the principle should be: if the operation is risky enough that the president has to make the final decision, then Congress should be notified.

As a basis for discussion and action, the Kaine-McCain measure is a valuable step forward to bring the legislative-executive balance on war powers back into line.

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