Senate bill amends War Powers Act

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) unveiled a bill Thursday that they said would change the way Congress declares war.

The senators said their War Powers Consultation Act was needed because too many presidents have ignored Congress’s authority to declare war.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The Constitution gives the power to declare war to the Congress, but Congress has not formally declared war since June 1942, even though our nation has been involved in dozens of military actions of one scale or another since that time,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “There is reason for this: The nature of war is changing.”

Kaine said their bill would allow the president to act militarily for up to seven days, but if a conflict exceeds that time allotment, both chambers of Congress would have to vote to continue to use force. 

The bill would also establish a “permanent consultation committee” made up of congressional leaders and the four committees that are related to military conflicts — Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Appropriations.

McCain and Kaine said that because some wars are no longer nation-state versus nation-state, updates to the 1973 War Powers Resolution are needed.

“It is essential for the Congress and the president to work together to define a new war powers consultative arrangement that both reflects the nature of conflict in the 21st century and is in line with our Constitution,” McCain said. “The legislation we are introducing today can restore a better balance to the way national security decision-making should work in a great democracy such as ours.”

The senators said their bill was based on recommendations from the National War Powers Commission, a bipartisan effort led by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher.