The War Powers Resolution was passed into law in 1973 to re-affirm the Constitution’s prohibition on war without prior Congressional authorization, to implement procedures to prevent unconstitutional war, and to create tools for ending unconstitutional war. Key provisions of the War Powers Resolution include:
- The power of the President to introduce U.S. forces into hostilities, or into situations where hostilities are imminent, are exercised only pursuant to a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization, or an attack on the United States. [Section 2c, restating Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution.]
- In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which U.S. forces are introduced into hostilities or into situations where hostilities are imminent, the President must report to Congress within 48 hours the constitutional and legislative authority under which the introduction took place and the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities. [Section 4]
- Within sixty days after U.S. forces are introduced into hostilities, the President must end any such use of U.S. forces unless Congress has declared war or enacted a specific authorization for such use of U.S. forces. [Section 5b.]
- At any time that U.S. are engaged in hostilities outside the United States without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if Congress so directs by concurrent resolution. [Section 5c.]
- Any member of the House or Senate can invoke the War Powers Resolution and force a floor vote on ending the unauthorized use of military force, without being blocked by a committee.You can read the full text of the War Powers Resolution here.
About Constitutional War Authority
Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress, not the President has the power to declare war and authorize the use of force. James Madison, who was called the “Father of the Constitution” for his pivotal role in drafting it, wrote: “In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive.”
The War of 1812, Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, World War 1, and World War 2 were all declared by Congress. But in 1950, President Truman sent troops into hostilities in Korea without Congressional authorization. In 1963, President Kennedy sent military “advisors” into hostilities in Vietnam. In 1969 President Nixon, began bombing Cambodia in secret from Congress and the American people. The unauthorized bombing of Cambodia finally pushed Congress in 1973 into passing into law the War Powers Resolution with a 2/3rds majority over Nixon’s veto, in an attempt to reverse the pattern of unauthorized war that President Truman had started in Korea.
Historic Passage of a War Powers Resolution to end war in Yemen
The US Senate, led by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), made history in December 2018 when they passed SJRes54, the Yemen War Powers Resolution to end unauthorized US military involvement in the Saudi war on Yemen with a vote of 56 to 41. It was the first War Powers Resolution to ever pass the Senate since the original passage of the War Powers Resolution in 1973.
This legislative victory pressured the Trump Administration and the Saudi regime to finally agree to a realistic diplomatic process to begin to end the Yemen war. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths obtained a ceasefire agreement in Hodeida Province. Hodeida is one of the main ports of Yemen and is the supply line for aid to millions of Yemenis. The suffering remains on a biblical scale, but the passage of this War Powers Resolution has created leverage for peace talks, is saving lives and could lead to an end to the war.
Many Congressional offices never had a position on U.S. participation in this catastrophic war until they were forced to vote on it.
But each time Sens. Sanders, Lee, Murphy and Reps. Khanna, Pocan, Massie, and Jones used the War Powers Resolution to force votes in 2017 and 2018, more Members of Congress came out against the war under public pressure until the Yemen War Powers Resolution passed the Senate. The original passage of the War Powers Resolution in 1973 was a major achievement of the peace movement during the Vietnam era. The historic passage of SJRes54 in December 13th 2018 represented the fulfillment of the promise of the War Powers Resolution that opponents of an unconstitutional war would have an effective tool to enable them to end it.
Watch the SJRes54 victory speech by Sanders, Lee, and Murphy here.
The advocacy effort for SJRes54 mobilized hundreds of thousands of activists all over the country to achieve a bipartisan majority in the Senate. The passage of this bill created a precedent for Congress to reassert its authority to end other unauthorized wars. We have a proven model for success in the using the War Powers Resolution as a vehicle for change. We just need the courage to keep pushing. Just Foreign Policy intends to advocate that members of Congress force more votes to stop the wars in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and more. The key is to keep making Congress vote. Will you help us?