Congress And The Presidency Research Paper Example
The United States constitution was built around the principles of checks and balances, as well as the separation of powers. That is why there are three interconnected branches of government, in the legislature, executive, and judicial branches. The Congress and the executive branch each check the other branch in order to ensure neither can take complete control of the public policy process. Because of the system in place, there have often been times of conflict between Congress and the president due to the fact each need each other to pass legislation.
One of the most contentious aspects of government is in the ability to declare war and send out the troops. According to Article I of the US Constitution, Congress has the ability to declare war. This is specifically listed as something that only Congress can grant, which means the president cannot officially go to war unless Congress gives the approval. However, the Constitution also gives the president powers in relation to the military. According the Article II, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia o the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States (“US Constitution”).” While Congress has the ability to actually declare war, the president is the one responsible for deploying the troops and being the head commander of the military. This can cause conflicts in times of war because the president has, at times, sent in troops without the consent of Congress. In fact, virtually every war since WWII has started with the president sending troops into an area before an official declaration of war. One occurrence of this is when President Clinton started bombing Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. Clinton allowed the war to occur without an official declaration from Congress. This led to a conflict between Clinton and the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973 by Congress.
The background to the passage of the War Powers Resolution was due to the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Korean War began in 1950 and lasted for about three years without an official declaration of war. President Truman originally sent troops into Korea in order to prevent a communist takeover, and President Eisenhower continued the war. The Vietnam War lasted much longer than the Korean War, and was the tipping point for Congress in terms of official declarations of war. Since the Vietnam War lasted for about a decade, and was initially started with President Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution without Congressional involvement, Congress believed change was needed. Therefore, on November 7, 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in an attempt to limit presidential war powers.
According to the War Powers Resolution:
“In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representation and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report in writing setting forth the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces and the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement (“War Powers Resolution”).”
This means that the president must notify Congress within two days of taking any military action. The president must then set out a plan documenting why the action is needed and for how long it will be needed. The president will also be expected to convey any other information as requested by the Congress in terms of the military engagement. This put a check on presidential powers in terms of sending out troops because it required Congressional knowledge. However, the Resolution went farther in limiting presidential power by requiring a withdrawal of troops within 60 days if no official declaration of war was declared. While there was a grace period of an extra 30 days following the 60, troops had to start withdrawing immediately after 60 days. Therefore, the president could no longer indefinitely keep troops in an area without a declaration of war. The legislation succeeded in limiting presidential power.
However, the process of passing the War Powers Resolution also highlighted another issue regarding the Congressional and presidential relations. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the bill, but Richard Nixon issued a veto. Nixon did so on the grounds that this limited necessary executive powers during war, and this was an obvious attempt to limit his power. However, Congress overrode his veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses. The bill became law despite a presidential veto. This process again highlights the system of checks and balances, because even though the president may not want a bill, they do not always get their way. Congress can have a lot of governing power even in the face of a veto. Since the passage of the bill, there have been 130 reports submitted by presidents informing Congress of some kind of military action (“War Powers Resolution”).
President Clinton’s conflict with the War Powers Resolution began in 1999 with the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The goal was to stop the human rights abuses in Kosovo as well as bring a withdrawal of Yugoslavian influences from the region. The attack was initially designed by NATO, of which the United States was a member. President Clinton decided to join to attacks by NATO in attempt to liberate the people in Kosovo. Clinton believed that taking action along with NATO would prevent a larger war and show a united stance with allies. Clinton did not want to risk the destabilization of the region, which is why he believed immediate action was best. Clinton addressed the nation on March 24, 1999 where he officially announced American military troops would be sent in with allied forces against Yugoslavia (Clinton 1999). Because there had been no official declaration of war, the War Powers Resolution would take effect and Clinton would have to comply with all the regulations stated.
While Clinton did provide the proper initial notification, the problem arose when he went past the 60 day deadline. The NATO forces required more time to effectively end the Yugoslavian forces in Kosovo, and this created issues with the War Powers Resolution. Clinton kept troops in the region, without withdrawing for an extra two weeks after the 60 day period. This led Congress to file a law suit against Clinton claiming that he had violated the Resolution. The issue that would be examined in the court would be on what constitutes congressional authorization for a war. Clinton claimed Congress had effectively authorized the war by passing a bill funding his actions. If this were true, the 60 days would no longer apply and the United States could claim to be officially at war in Kosovo (Savage).
On February 18, 2000, the case of Campbell v Clinton was held in the United States Court of Appeals. Tom Campbell filed the case and he was a member of the US House of Representatives. This is an example of how Congress can actually challenge presidential authority. A primary way to go about this is to do so in the courts, as they interpret the laws as another check on executive power. Congress has filed cases against the president many times throughout American history. Campbell claimed that Clinton violated the War Powers Resolution by allowing a US military presence in the area for 79 days. Congress had not passed an official declaration of war so this should be illegal. Clinton claimed that since Congress had already passed funding for his extended military efforts, this essentially have Congressional consent for the war. The court sided with President Clinton and determined that his actions did not violate the War Powers Act, and the US military could continue to have a presence in Kosovo until the war ended (“Campbell v Clinton”). This was a win for the executive branch at the expense of Congressional authority.
In conclusion, the military conflict with Kosovo under President Clinton highlights one example of conflict between Congress and the presidency. It shows how both branches try to offset each other when they do not agree on legislation. The system of checks and balances creates many opportunities for vetoes and Congress trying to limit executive power. It is true that the presidency has substantially grown in power over the years, and this power over Congress will only last as long as the courts allow for its expansion of power.
"The Constitution of the United States." National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html>.
"War Powers Resolution." Avalon Project, 7 Nov. 1973. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/warpower.asp>.
Clinton, Bill. "Statement on Kosovo." 24 Mar. 1999. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/speech-3932>.
Savage, Charlie. "Clock Ticking on War Powers Resolution." New York Times, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/clock-ticking-on-war-powers-resolution/?_r=0>.
"CAMPBELL v. CLINTON." Findlaw, 18 Feb. 2000. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. <http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-dc-circuit/1177126.html>.
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