The War Powers Act

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I. Although Congress has the authority to declare war (Article I Section 8), the president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (Article II Section 2) and has the power to decide military tactics including when to end the war. Therefore, the primary constitutional conflict is that Congress can start a war but cannot stop it, and the president can end a war but cannot begin one. However, although Congress cannot end the war, they control finances for war and can therefore discontinue a war’s funding.

II. Two provisions of the War Power Resolution that were designed to limit the President’s power over war making
a. Requires the president to obtain congressional approval before committing U.S. forces to a combat zone
b. Requires the president to withdraw troops within 60 days unless Congress votes to declare war
III. Two other formal powers Congress has over war making
a. The power to ratify treaties- Congress can agree to or reject treaties that could have significant effects on foreign conflicts. For example, a treaty might end a war, or create an alliance between nations. The power to ratify treaties gives Congress a great deal of power over war making.

b. Congressional oversight (hearings or investigations)- Congress has the power to review, monitor, and supervise federal agencies, programs, and activities in order to keep a check on the executive branch. Congressional oversight can be used to influence war because Congress can question the means and motives of a war, even when the president completely supports it. For example, televised hearings in the late 1960s helped to muster opposition to the controversial Vietnam War.
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