A University of Utah law professor told a U.S. Senate hearing Thursday that Congress must seize back its Constitutional power to declare war from the president by strengthening the War Powers Act.
Ed Firmage, who teaches constitutional law at the U. and wrote a book about war powers, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Special Subcommittee on War Powers that current situations were not envisioned by writers of the Constitution."There is no doubt that the original understanding of the framers of the Constitution was that Congress possessed the sole power to decide for war, whether declared or undeclared, waged in secret or openly acknowledged," Firmage's prepared statement said.
"The sole exception was that the president possessed the power to respond to surprise attack on this country."
In fact, he said that during debate at the Constitutional Convention when Pierce Butler made a motion to vest war powers solely with the president, "Butler's motion received no second." He said the convention believed power over war by the many members of Congress would protect against war brought on by ill-considered acts of one person.
However during the Cold War and wars in Korea and Vietnam, presidents have essentially taken away from Congress the power to decide for war, he said.
"Congress must reassert its original dominance over our decision for war or peace. Congress should strengthen the War Powers Resolution," he said.
Firmage suggested better defining how the president should consult with Congress when sending troops to a hostile area, requiring congressional authorization of war activities as a prerequisite for funding and withholding funds if the presidentfails to comply with the act.
He said Congress should also better address how to handle covert and paramilitary operations.