The War Powers Act of 1973

The War Powers Resolutions (a.k.a. The War Powers Act) was adopted in 1973 by the two thirds of the U.S. Congress. The purpose of the act was to check the power of the President to involve the United States into an armed conflict without asking Congress about it. In other words, Congress has limited the Presidential power to send troops anywhere the President would like to and not having the consents of Congress (Library of Congress). The same document obliged the President to do the following: it was necessary to notify Congress within two days regarding the possibility of committing the U.S. into an armed conflict; the military forces were forbidden to remain for more than sixty days without Congress authorization to use the force or previous declaration of war. Congress adopted the Act by two thirds that gave the opportunity to override a presidential veto (Library of Congress).

Considering the Act and its purpose, the President cannot use the power to involve the U.S. military into action any time he thinks it is necessary. Congress created this leverage to limit the Presidential power after the Vietnam War in order to have the opportunity to make well-weighted and evaluated decisions regarding such important matter as declaring a war (NYTtimes.com). The usurpation of the Presidential power to provoke a conflict (with any possible criminal intent by replacing the President, for example) is not possible in this case. In other words, Congress created some sort of safety switch to eliminate the above-mentioned possibilities (NYTtimes.com).

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However, there is an issue in this act – Congress was not able to stop president from disregarding the Act. Congressmen created the tool to limit the power of the President but were not able to provide functioning mechanism of making this tool actually work. In fact, the Presidents were aware of this issue and disregarded the Act from time to time. It should be added that presidents largely disregarded the efforts of Congress, outlined in the Act (NYTtimes.com). Various military conflicts involving American military forces did not involve Congress into the decision-making process regarding the actions of the Presidents and their orders. Thus, President Reagan sent military forces to El Salvador in 1981 and Nicaragua some time after. In 1999, President Clinton did not consult with Congress either before the bombing campaign in Kosovo. Finally, President Obama claimed that the attack on Libyan forces he sanctioned without Congress approval did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Act so he acted within the legislative field (NYTtimes.com).

As it can be noticed, Presidents disapproved the Act and there was and is a clear reason for that – limitation of the power is not welcome in any case. The Presidents ignored the law because of the several reasons – in some cases, actions are far more important than long-term debates in Congress; and there is no working mechanism that would punish the President for not obeying this law. Therefore, Congress created a good but not functional mechanism of the Presidential power limitation that has been disregarded continuously by the Presidents.

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