A bipartisan group of Senators revealed legislation to strengthen Congressional power regarding matters relating to National Security. The group wants to correct the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.
The National Security Powers Act secures congressional authority in war powers, arms exports, and national emergencies. Under the Constitution, power is distributed through all of the branches of government. Each branch has the power to prevent the other branches from becoming too powerful — this process is known as checks and balances.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, Republican Senator Mike Lee, and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders want the President to consult with members of congress before using national security powers.
“Over the last several decades, there has been a very dangerous shift in national security powers and war-making power from the legislative branch to the executive branch,” Senator Murphy said on Tuesday at a news conference. “This shift in national security power to the president has resulted in endless wars, reckless levels of arms sales, and national emergencies that seem to have no termination.”
“Before it’s too late, Congress needs to reclaim its rightful role as a coequal branch on matters of war and national security,” the Senator said.
“Presidents of both parties have usurped Congress’s prerogative to determine if, when, and how we go to war,” he said. “Now America’s global standing, treasure, and brace service members are being lost in conflicts the people’s legislators never debated.”
The President would need Congress’s approval before engaging in warfare. The requirements for each authorization must be met, and an automatic end date must be established. The President would have 20 days to terminate warfare that Congress has not approved. National emergencies must be renewed after one year. The House of Representatives and the Senate will have thirty days to approve emergency declarations and detail emergency powers. There is also a five-year limit on states of emergency.
“Article I of the Constitution clearly states that it is Congress, not the President, which has the power to declare war. The Framers gave that power to Congress, the branch most accountable to the people, but over many years Congress has allowed its oversight authority to wane and executive power to expand,” Senator Sanders said.
“Presidents are never eager to give away their national security powers,” Senator Murphy said. “So we understand any legislation that transfers or changes that existing status quo on national security is going to be an uphill climb when it comes to getting a presidential signature.”
Under the proposal, if the President acts without getting approval from Congress, funding would be disabled for the operation.
“I believe President Biden made a courageous and very difficult decision in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, bringing the longest war in our country’s history to an end,” Senator Sanders said. “Let us be clear: When that authorization was given in 2001, I suspect that not one member of Congress dreamed that American troops would still be in Afghanistan nearly 20 years later under a vague and expansive authorization.”
Senator Lee compared the process of getting approval to what former President Barack Obama did in 2013 before he launched airstrikes in Syria — President Obama addressed the issue with Congress before carrying out the airstrikes.
Last month, the House voted to repeal a 2002 authorization for use of military force in Iraq. The White House has said publicly that it supported the repeal, although the legislation hasn’t been scheduled for a Senate vote as of yet.