Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) are pressing for significant changes to how US presidents can launch military actions overseas.
The senators unveiled a bill Thursday that would repeal the 1973 War Powers Resolution and replace it with a new law that requires greater consultation with Congress and a vote within 30 days on any “significant armed conflict.”
“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, as quoted by the Associated Press. “There is reason for this: The nature of war is changing.”
The bill requires presidents to consult with Congress before sending troops into combat operations expected to last more than seven days.
The 1973 War Powers Act says presidents must notify Congress within 48 hours of initiating a military offensive and says armed forces cannot remain in combat for more than 90 days without congressional consent.
The resolution, however, has been ignored on many occasions by presidents of both parties notably with deployments of US troops to Balkans in the 1990s, maintenance of a no-fly zone over Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and with the dispatch of troops to Libya in 2011.
President Barack Obama flouted the law in 2011, openly refusing to bring the Libyan War up to a vote in Congress. The military assault, which removed Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi from power, touched off a fierce debate in Congress over whether Obama had exceeded his authority.
“Forty years of a failed war powers resolution in today’s dangerous world suggests that it’s time now to get back in and to do some careful deliberation, to update and normalize the appropriate level of consultation between a president and the legislature,” Sen. Kaine said.