This law gives Congress
the power to remove U.S.
Armed Forces from
The American Spark
One Law Keeps U.S. Presidents From Becoming Warmongers
By Cliff Montgomery - Dec. 31st, 2018
In 1973, The War Powers Resolution was enacted as a means of providing an essential check on the
president’s power to send U.S. troops into combat. The Resolution gives Congress the authority to poten-
tially remove U.S. Armed Forces from unauthorized military engagements.
The study adds that, most recently, “the War Powers Resolution and related legislation” has given Congress
the authority to question “U.S. military operations related to the joint counter-Houthi campaign being
conducted by armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia, or KSA) and the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) in Yemen.”
Perhaps because of this powerful oversight, the law has “been deemed unconstitutional by every President
since the law’s enactment in 1973,” according to a recent report on the subject from the Congressional
Research Service (CRS).
Below, the American Spark quotes the CRS report’s summary:
“Under the Constitution, the war powers are divided between Congress and the President. Among other
relevant grants, Congress has the power to declare war and raise and support the armed forces (Article I,
Section 8), while the President is Commander in Chief (Article II, Section 2).
“It is generally agreed that the Commander-in-Chief role gives the President power to utilize the armed forces
to repel attacks against the United States, but there has long been controversy over whether he is
constitutionally authorized to send forces into hostile situations abroad without a declaration of war or other
“Congressional concern about presidential use of armed forces without congressional authorization intensified
after the Korean conflict. During the Vietnam War, Congress searched for a way to assert authority to decide
when the United States should become involved in a war or the armed forces be utilized in circumstances that
might lead to hostilities.
“On November 7, 1973, it passed the War Powers Resolution [Public Law (P.L.) 93-148] over the veto of
“The main purpose of the Resolution was to establish procedures for both branches to share in decisions that
might get the United States involved in war. The drafters sought to circumscribe the President’s authority to
use armed forces abroad in hostilities or potential hostilities without a declaration of war or other congression-
al authorization, yet provide enough flexibility to permit him to respond to attack or other emergencies.
“The record of the War Powers Resolution since its enactment has been mixed, and after 40 years
it remains controversial.
“Some Members of Congress believe the Resolution has on some occasions served as a restraint on the
use of armed forces by Presidents, provided a mode of communication, and given Congress a vehicle for
asserting its war powers.
“Others have sought to amend the Resolution because they believe it has failed to assure a congressional
voice in committing U.S. troops to potential conflicts abroad.
“[Yet] others in Congress, along with executive branch officials, contend that the President needs more
flexibility in the conduct of foreign policy and that the time limitation in the War Powers Resolution is
unconstitutional and impractical. Some have [even] argued for its repeal.
“This report examines the provisions of the War Powers Resolution, actual experience in its use from its
enactment in 1973 through March 2015, and proposed amendments to it. . . .
“On June 7, 1995, the House defeated, by a vote of 217-201, an amendment to repeal the central features
of the War Powers Resolution that have been deemed unconstitutional by every President since the law’s
enactment in 1973. . . .
“Section 4(a)(1) [of the Resolution] requires the President to report to Congress any introduction of U.S.
forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities. When such a report is submitted, or is required to be submitted,
Section 5(b) requires that the use of forces must be terminated within 60 to 90 days unless Congress
authorizes such use or extends the time period. Section 3 requires that the ‘President in every possible
instance shall consult with Congress before introducing’ U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent
“From 1975 through March 2017, Presidents have submitted 168 reports as the result of the War Powers
Resolution, but only one, the 1975 Mayaguez seizure, cited Section 4(a)(1), which triggers the 60-day
withdrawal requirement, and in this case the military action was completed and U.S. armed forces had
disengaged from the area of conflict when the report was made.
“The reports submitted by the President since enactment of the War Powers Resolution cover a range of
military activities, from embassy evacuations to full-scale combat military operations, such as the Persian Gulf
conflict, and the 2003 war with Iraq, the intervention in Kosovo, and the anti-terrorism actions in Afghanistan.
“In some instances, U.S. Armed Forces have been used in hostile situations without formal reports to
Congress under the War Powers Resolution. On one occasion, Congress exercised its authority to determine
that the requirements of Section 4(a)(1) became operative on August 29, 1983, through passage of the Multi-
national Force in Lebanon Resolution.
“In 1991 and 2002, Congress authorized, by law, the use of military force against Iraq. In several instances
[neither] the President, Congress, or the courts has been willing to initiate the procedures of or enforce the
directives in the War Powers Resolution.
“In the 115th Congress, U.S. military operations related to the joint counter-Houthi campaign being conducted
by armed forces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia, or KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
in Yemen have spurred congressional legislative action in both Houses of Congress, taken pursuant to
provisions of the War Powers Resolution and related legislation.
“The Senate on November 28, 2018, voted 63-37 in favor of a motion to discharge S.J. Res. 54, a joint
resolution to ‘direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that
have not been authorized by Congress,’ from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, [and thus] clearing the
way for debate on the measure in the Senate.”
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