Congressman Sherman Introduces War Powers Act Enforcement Act
Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the War Powers Act Enforcement Act, which would force compliance with the War Powers Act (also known as the War Powers Resolution).
The War Powers Act prevents the president from continuing hostilities undertaken in emergency or exigent circumstances without seeking and obtaining Congressional approval within certain time periods. Under the War Powers Act, the president must obtain Congressional approval for hostilities he or she commences within 60 or 90 days. Certainly, if the President seeks to go beyond that period of time, or the other limits of the War Powers Act, he or she should do so only pursuant to statutory authorization prescribed by the War Powers Act or a declaration of war.
Unfortunately, since 1973, every president, Democrat and Republican, has claimed that the War Powers Act was not constitutional. They have either violated the Act or claimed that compliance was voluntary. Unfortunately, many constitutional scholars agreed with them.
The Constitution divides war powers between Article I (Congress has the authority to declare war) and Article II (Commander and Chief). However, under the Constitution, funds can be spent only as authorized and appropriated by Congress.
Many constitutional scholars believe that Congress can make the War Powers Act binding on presidents, if - but only if - we tie it to the expenditure of funds. For example, former Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified to that effect before the Foreign Affairs Committee on July 25, 2017.
Since 2012, Congress has used its authority over funds to prevent presidents from violating the War Powers Act—but, done so only with a series of temporary one-year provisions in Appropriations bills. It’s time to make the War Powers Act Enforcement Act permanent law. That is why Congressman Sherman introduced the War Powers Act Enforcement Act, which simply seeks to make permanent law the following language annually included in the Defense Appropriations Act: No Federal funds may be used in contravention of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).
Following U.S. military action in Libya in 2011, Congressman Sherman offered an amendment to the FY2012 Defense Appropriations bill which would force compliance with the War Powers Act. That amendment, adopted by a vote of 316 to 111, prohibited the expenditure of funds in contravention of the War Powers Act. The amendment passed the House and was subsequently enacted into law. The provision has been included in every Defense Appropriations bill signed into law since then.
Congressman Sherman is pleased to be joined by more than two dozen of his colleagues, including Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), the author of important war powers legislation, including to repeal the 2002 AUMF, in introducing the War Powers Act Enforcement Act.