Speaking together on the Senate floor last week, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and John McCain introduced the War Powers Consultation Act of 2014 – bipartisan legislation that would reform the 1973 War Powers Resolution by strengthening the consultative process between Congress and the President on whether and when to engage in military action.
Senators Kaine and McCain initially announced their intention to review the War Powers Resolution in July 2013, describing it as “ineffective at establishing a consultative process between the executive and legislative branches of our government over our nation’s most important decision – whether or not to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way.” The issue of war powers gained additional attention surrounding the August 2013 debate on the authorization of military action in Syria. At that time, Senator Kaine urged President Obama to fully consult with Congress before initiating military action – a call to action spurred by his in-depth review of the current resolution.
“As the world becomes more dangerous and complex, and demands continue to increase for American leadership, we need to establish a better system of communication between the President, Congress and the American people, especially on decisions of war and peace,” said Senator Kaine. “If the President and Congress do not work together and find consensus in matters around war, we might be asking our men and women – in Virginia and across the country – to fight and potentially give their lives without a clear political consensus and agreement behind that mission.”
During his remarks, Senator Kaine argued that the debate over executive and legislative consultation on war powers dates back to the Constitution of 1787 with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which provides that “Congress shall have power . . . to declare war,” and Article II, Section 2 designating the President is the “Commander in Chief” of the nation’s armed forces. Since that time, Congress has only formally declared war five times, but there have been more than one hundred cases where Presidents of both parties have initiated military action without prior Congressional approval.
“As we mark the 40th anniversary of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, we believe now is the time to start working together to update it,” said Senator McCain. “This issue deserves the attention of Congress. We owe it to those who protect our nation and to the American people.”