Congressional Authority to Limit Military Operations

Does Congress have the constitutional authority to legislate limits on the conduct of the war in Iraq?

The answer may seem obvious. But to resolve any lingering doubt, the Congressional Research Service gave the topic a thorough analytic treatment in a newly updated report (pdf) and concluded that Congress does have such authority.

“It has been suggested that the President’s role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces provides sufficient authority for his deployment of troops, and any efforts on the part of Congress to intervene could represent an unconstitutional violation of separation-of-powers principles.”

“While even proponents of strong executive prerogative in matters of war appear to concede that it is within Congress’s authority to cut off funding entirely for a military operation, it has been suggested that spending measures that restrict but do not end financial support for the war in Iraq would amount to an ‘unconstitutional condition’.”

To rebut any such suggestion, the newly updated CRS report “provides historical examples of measures that restrict the use of particular personnel, and concludes with a brief analysis of arguments that might be brought to bear on the question of Congress’s authority to limit the availability of troops to serve in Iraq.”

“Although not beyond debate, such a restriction appears to be within Congress’s authority to allocate resources for military operations,” the report stated.

See “Congressional Authority To Limit U.S. Military Operations in Iraq,” updated July 11, 2007.

See, relatedly, “Defense: FY2008 Authorization and Appropriations” (pdf), updated July 13, 2007.

and “FY2007 Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Other Purposes” (pdf), updated July 2, 2007.

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