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War Powers Litigation Initiated by Members of Congress Since the Enactment of the War Powers Resolution

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Congressional rept.

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Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution confers on Congress the power to declare War. Modern Presidents, however, have contended that they do not need congressional authorization to use force. Partly in response to that contention, and because of widespread concern that Congress had allowed its war power to atrophy in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, Congress in 1973 enacted the War Powers Resolution WPR. Among other things, the WPR generally requires the President 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 After a report is submitted or required to be submitted, the WPR requires that the forces be withdrawn within 60 days 90 days in specified circumstances unless Congress declares war or otherwise authorizes their continued involvement. Nonetheless, subsequent Presidents have continued to maintain that they have sufficient authority independent of Congress to initiate the use of military force, and several Presidents have viewed aspects of the WPR as unconstitutionally infringing upon their Commander-in-Chief authority. Congress has on four occasions enacted authorizations specifically waiving the 60-90 day limitation on the use of force otherwise imposed by the WPR. But on eight occasions Members of Congress have filed suit to force various Presidents to comply with WPR requirements or otherwise to recognize Congresss war powers under the Constitution. This report summarizes the eight cases initiated by Members of Congress in which final rulings were reached, which concerned U.S. military activities in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Grenada military action taken during the Persian Gulf conflict between Iraq and Iran U.S. activities in response to Iraqs invasion of Kuwait U.S. participation in NATOs action in Kosovo and Yugoslavia and U.S. military action in Libya.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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