A friend recently brought up an interesting point in a thread: the recent Congressional non-binding protest vote against the war in Iraq was a pretty half-assed (in fact, kind of cowardly) measure; it doesn’t actually require anyone to do anything. But there’s an alternative.
The War Powers Act requires that the Congress explicitly authorize any use of force, either by a declaration of war or other explicit statutory authorization; in the absence of such authorization, the President is required to report to the Congress every 60 days, and the Congress must explicitly (by passing a law) authorize a further 60 days of operations, or the President is legally required to withdraw forces. The Authorization for Use of Force in Iraq is such an explicit statutory authorization.
But what if the Congress were to pass a bill rescinding said authorization, and returning to the 60-day period required by the WPA? It’s not clear from the text of the WPA that such a rescindment is possible, but nor is it clear that it isn’t, and I think that given a clear Congressional intent to do so the courts would agree that it is within their power (and the spirit of the WPA) to do so. It could be drafted to restart the War Powers Act clock at the effective date of the bill, so that the President would be granted 60 days’ authorization immediately, but would need to re-apply at the end of that.
This would give the Congress direct, non-financial control over the conduct of the war: they would have the power, by simple non-passage of a bill, to “terminate any use of United States armed forces.” They would have a regular review authority, so they wouldn’t be required to simply withdraw immediately or later; in fact, they could even negotiate directly with the President about terms such as when withdrawals would occur. (Hopefully they would have common sense in not trying to micromanage a war, but I suspect that Congress’ innate avoidance of personal responsibility for controversial things will protect us from that)
What do people think about this? Should we start trying to prod our representatives to introduce such a measure?