April 19, 1999
Rein-in the President
Lack of congressional diligence has brought problems
If Congress had been diligent, this president would not have been able to launch an unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation, putting the lives of our soldiers on the line while straining our relations with numerous foreign powers.
Congress was not diligent these last several months, ignoring legislation I put forward at the beginning of this term to prevent any action in Kosovo. My legislation, HR 647, would prohibit the use of any Department of Defense funds from being used to bomb Yugoslavia without an Act of Congress authorizing such action.
Congress has been less than diligent for much longer than three months. In fact, it's been decades.
The US Constitution gives only Congress the authority to declare war. Presidents and their spin-doctors can talk all they want about "police actions" and "peace-keeping operations," but any one with common sense knows that when one country's government drops bombs on another sovereign nation, it is an act of war. Sadly, though, Congress has - over the last fifty years - ceded its war-making power to the executive branch. Today it is commonly, though erroneously, believed by a majority of Americans that presidents can send troops to war without even getting input from Congress.
The reason for this is the War Powers Resolution of 1973. This legislation gives presidents broad authority to commit troops and military resources for up to 60 days without congressional oversight.
In keeping with this legislation, last week my colleague, Rep. Tom Campbell of California, introduced two pieces of legislation. The House must consider both measures, under law, within two months of introduction.
The first measure is a declaration of war against Yugoslavia. While Mr. Campbell says he will vote against the measure, he wants to force our fellow Members of Congress to take a stand one way or the other - something no Congress has had to do with respect to war since December of 1941.
I will vote against the war declaration.
Mr. Campbell's second piece of legislation is in keeping with the War Powers Act. If passed, it would require the complete withdrawal of US troops from the conflict.
This is a measure of which I am not only a (n original cosponsor), but will, of course, support. If Congress wants to show our troops we support them, then we need to get them out of this sickening mess before it is too late.
Just as importantly, if members of this Congress wants to demonstrate to the American taxpayer they are responsible to our obligations under the Constitution, they will end this president's militaristic adventurism. It is time for presidents to understand that they are not above the law and that they are not kings who can arbitrarily decide to send troops to battle.
Further, the taxpayers deserve to get more for their hard-earned dollars. The White House claims this unconstitutional action in Kosovo will carry a price tag of at least $4 billion, none of which was appropriated. So much for the president's desire to "save Social Security." This little war of the president's is being paid for by the Social Security funds. It is currently being said in Washington that an emergency supplemental appropriations bill with offset to pay for this war is "not politically viable."
In addition, while our troops are being ineffectively spread around the world, the borders of the United States are left largely unprotected. We deserve better.
It is ironic that a president who once wrote that he "loathed" the military, has engaged our nation in a situation that is potentially more dangerous than Vietnam. It is time Congress not only reins in this president, but the presidency itself.