The war powers resolution : its impact on executive-congressional relations

Date

1982

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Abstract

The Founding Fathers originally intended and the Constitution specifically stated that the power to initiate war was to lie with Congress and the power to conduct war once initiated was reposed in the Executive. Historical fact, however, has not reflected this relationship. Traditionally, presidents have enjoyed considerable latitude in the exercise of the war powers. This has occurred largely as a result of frequently recurring crises. War has been the ultimate crisis and by World War II the President possessed virtually unlimited war powers. Ironically, in the end war also turned out to be the demise of presidential prerogative. The protracted failure of the Vietnam War severely eroded the presumption of presidential prerogative in the conduct of war. In 1973, Congress attempted to restore the constitutional imbalance which it felt existed as a result of years of presidential war-making and congressional acquiescence by passing the War Powers Resolution. However, the resolution is replete with ambiguities and paradoxes. While it can be conclusively said that the resolution has not been strenuously tested, it is possible to perform a limited analysis of the instances which have so far fallen under its provisions. These findings reveal that tentatively the historical executive-congressional relationship has not been significantly altered as the resolution originally intended.

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Keywords

Executive power--United States, War and emergency powers--United States

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