Yesterday Captain Ed discussed the possibility of Congress repealing its Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, essentially un-declaring the war and forcing an end to our involvement. The question the good captain brings up is an interesting one: can Congress do this on its own, or must it submit it to President Bush for his approval (or, more realistically, his veto)?
This sort of thing was the crux of a couple of technothrillers I read a few years ago, “Balance Of Power” and “The Price Of Power.” I know it’s an odd place to get information, but several very fascinating Constitutional issues were raised and explored — including the issue of declaring war.
The Constitution is very clear: Congress has the sole power to declare war. Since it is an exclusive power of Congress, like impeachment, it can be argued that it does not need presidential approval.
That argument falls on two points, however. The first is Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution:
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
Also rather inconvenient is that Congress submitted the AUMF to President Bush for approval, and he signed it. This is historically consistent; every other declaration of war has been approved by the president at the time. However, it makes it rather awkward for Congress to argue that it can repeal the AUMF all on its own, when less than five years ago they believed that it did need presidential approval.
On the other hand, though, I have to give the advocates of this move points for intellectual honesty. It’s the most forthright, aboveboard, and principled approach around. I also think it would be a very bad move, but it would have the virtue of being legal and ethical.
Which is pretty much why I don’t think that the Democrats will put very much effort behind it. They tend to flee from such
decisive divisive stances. Instead, I expect they’ll crank out more “non-binding resolutions” and half-assed measures designed to keep the issue front and center for the elections — but not actually try to achieve anything.
After all, if they did something decisive, like the original vote for the AUMF back in 2002, they might have to explain it to the voters. Safer to just keep the arguments going, and hoping the polls keep coming up in their favor.
Of course, this means that the “illegal, immoral,and stupid” war they keep ranting about going, but the only really important thing is keeping the Democrats in office.