GOP bill would kill War Powers measure

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) on Monday introduced legislation to repeal the War Powers Resolution (WPR). 

Garrett argues that the original intent of the resolution has been ignored and is now being used by the executive branch as a way to justify immediate military action without congressional approval. 

As an alternative, Garrett says Congress should rely on the simple language of the Constitution, which gives Congress the sole authority to declare war.

"The use of military force against a sovereign nation is an act of war," he said Monday. "Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly grants Congress the sole power to declare war.

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"Unfortunately, since its passage in 1973, the War Powers Resolution has been stripped of its original purpose and has instead served as a temporary, de facto authorization for the executive branch to use military force whenever it deems it necessary."

The War Powers Resolution purports to set out rules that the president and Congress must follow when launching military attacks.

Complaints about it arose again in the last few weeks when the Obama administration contemplated military strikes against Syria. The administration has said it has the authority to launch strikes without congressional approval, presumably under language in the WPR that says the president can use force on its own to deal with national emergencies.

But several members noted that the WPR says force can be used without congressional authorization only pursuant to a "national emergency created by attack upon the United States." They said the administration cannot use this language to justify an attack against Syria, which they said poses no immediate threat.

Members have also said the administration incorrectly used the WPR in 2011 when it launched military strikes against Libya, which also posed no immediate threat to the United States.

Despite these complaints, the Obama administration indicated again this week that it believes it can launch attacks without congressional authority, something that some members of Congress also believe.

Aside from national emergencies, the WPR allows military action pursuant to a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization. Without a declaration of war, the executive branch is allowed to launch a military attack, but it must notify Congress within two days, and must stop the attack after 90 days unless Congress agrees to extend it.

Garrett says that language has turned into "de facto military authorization, sometimes for up to 90 days."

Other members also proposed two Syria-related resolutions on Monday. One, from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), is a joint resolution prohibiting the use of funds to attack Syria. Poe and dozens of other Republicans oppose a military strike against Syria, something that suddenly seems less likely given talk that Russia may be able to broker a deal forcing Syria to give up its chemical weapons.

Another resolution from Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) would call for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal at the United Nations.