Inadvertent Implications of the War Powers Resolution
Newton, Michael A., 1962-
The constitutional infirmity of the War Powers Resolution has been uniformly demonstrated by more than four decades of bipartisan experience. The Resolution manifestly fails to eliminate the healthy interbranch tensions that are in our constitutional DNA with respect to military deployments. In its context, the override of President Nixon’s veto represented little more than a stark act of congressional opportunism. The President’s veto message was prescient in warning that the Resolution is “dangerous to the best interests of our Nation.” This article suggests that the act represents an attempted abdication of the enumerated obligation of Congress to oversee military operations via the appropriations power. It describes reasons why our republic would be well served by clear-eyed reassessment of the War Powers Resolution. It spawned three serious defects: 1) it displaced good faith dialogue between the co-equal branches with after the fact litigation, 2) it highlights American political will as the weakest strand of otherwise formidable military capacity, and 3) it creates a perverse inventive to reverse engineer military operations based on statutory language in ways that undermine strategic objectives. American lives and interests are ill-served by these inadvertent implications.