The War Powers Resolution


ANNCR: The War Powers Resolution – on Today's Congressional Moment.

How do we get into wars in the first place? The framers of our Constitution had a clear idea: They gave Congress, the branch closest to the people, the power to declare war, and the President the right to prosecute it. Going to war, the founders of our nation believed, should be a shared responsibility.

By the time of the Vietnam War, however, Congress had watched a series of presidents send U.S. forces overseas with little or no consultation beforehand. So, in 1973, over President Nixon's veto, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, to claim a stronger role in the decision to send our troops into combat.

The legislation has proven to be seriously flawed, however. Nothing in it actually requires joint deliberation before going to war, and it contains loopholes that presidents have been only too happy to exploit. Only once, after the Navy ship the Mayaguez was captured by Cambodia in 1975, has a President actually acted pursuant to the War Powers Resolution. Congress has been unable to address the ambiguities in the measure. So despite its noble attempt more than 30 years ago to restore some balance when it comes to making war, the power remains largely with the President.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at