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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Panel urges remake of War Powers Act

Doyle Mcmanus Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan commission called Tuesday for a law to require the next president to ask Congress for formal approval of any decision to go to war and force the White House to consult Congress once a war is under way.

The panel, led by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher, determined that the 1973 War Powers Act has failed and should be replaced. It was passed during the Vietnam War to limit the president’s power to launch hostilities, but presidents of both parties have argued that it is unconstitutional.

“The fundamental purpose of our statute is to ensure that the president consults with Congress before taking the nation to war,” Christopher said at a news conference with Baker and other panel members.

The proposed law would require the president to notify Congress of any plans for combat lasting, or expected to last, longer than one week and require Congress to vote on a resolution of approval within 30 days of being notified. (Covert operations are reviewed by Congress under a different law.)

The War Powers Act forbids a president to commit troops to combat for more than 60 days without formal authorization from Congress, but it does not require Congress to vote on the issue. That loophole has allowed presidents and Congress to ignore the law when they chose.

The proposed law would not have stopped President Bush from going to war in Iraq, members of the panel said, because he won approval from Congress in 2002 to use military force against Baghdad.