The Honorable Mike Crapo, The Honorable James E. Risch, The Honorable Mike Simpson, The Honorable Raul Labrador,
As concerned citizens, we write to each of you about a matter of great moment — for our nation and national security, the Constitution and the rule of law, and the protection of Congress. The increasing tension between the United States and North Korea, and the growing war of words between President Donald J. Trump and President Kim Jong Un, coupled with President Trump’s assertions of unilateral executive power to initiate military hostilities, unites us in our cause to draw your attention to the constitutional governance of the authority to initiate hostilities. We seek your participation in a remedy that will protect Congress, the Constitution and our country.
We harbor anxiety about the possibility that President Trump might assert unilateral presidential power to commence military strikes without prior congressional authorization, as required by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. Our shared concern is not at all a reflection of political partisanship or party affiliation. On the contrary, we acknowledge that presidents of both parties—Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative—have, since the Korean War, violated the War Clause, which places in Congress the sole and exclusive authority to initiate military acts against a foreign adversary.
Since 1950, presidents of both parties have usurped the war power, which is constitutionally vested in Congress. At the Constitutional Convention, the Framers unanimously agreed that Congress alone, by virtue of the War Clause, should possess the authority to take the nation to war. Delegates reinforced that exclusive congressional power to decide on matters of war and peace when, in the next constitutional provision, “The Marque and Reprisal Clause,” they vested in Congress the authority to initiate military activities falling short of war. By the end of the Convention, there was no dissent from the understanding that Congress possesses the sole and exclusive authority over the use of military force.
As Commander in Chief, the president’s authority, the Framers determined, was limited to “repelling invasions” of the United States, and to countering attacks on American troops and territories. This understanding, without exception, was reflected in the various state ratifying conventions, the Federalist Papers, and early U.S. Supreme Court cases in 1800, 1801, 1803, 1804 and 1806. Those decisions, upholding complete congressional control over the initiation of military hostilities, have never been overturned and remain good law.
Congressional acquiescence in the face of presidential aggrandizement of the war power since 1950 represents a grave threat to the principles of republicanism, the Constitution and the rule of law. It also threatens our national security. The Framers were committed to the constitutional conclusion, so eloquently stated by James Wilson, a delegate from Pennsylvania and later a member of the original Supreme Court,” that “no one man should hurry us into war.” The Framers’ wisdom on this score, that the collective judgment of Congress — not the judgment, temperament and perception of a single person — should govern matters of war and peace remains as wise and sound as ever, and perhaps more compelling than it was in 1787, since they could not have glimpsed the possibility that one person might initiate nuclear war, leading to the incineration of the planet.
Justice Robert H. Jackson, in his landmark concurring opinion in The Steel Seizure Case of 1952, justly wrote that Congress alone can prevent the loss of its powers. Members of Congress must resolve to end presidential aggrandizement of the war power, thereby protecting its exclusive constitutional authority over the critical decision to go to war. Accordingly, we ask you to introduce and support the following measure, “The War Powers Act of 2017,” or something very similar to it, as a means of restoring the integrity of the Constitution when our government initiates military hostilities. This measure would restore the Framers’ vision, protect Congress and remind all that, as delegates to the Convention agreed, presidential violation of foreign affairs powers would constitute an impeachable offense.
Thank you very much for your time and attention to critical constitutional issue.
War Powers Act of 2017
October 2, 2017
Concerning the war powers of Congress and the President
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Section I. This joint resolution may be cited as the “War Powers Act of 2017.”
Purpose and Policy
Sec. 2 (a) It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the Framers
of the Constitution of the United States to insure that the president may not initiate military strikes or introduce the United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent hostilities are indicated by the circumstances, without prior authorization by both houses of Congress.
(b) Under the War Clause of the Constitution— Article I, section 8—it is specifically provided that Congress “shall have Power to Declare War,” a provision intended by the Framers of the Constitution, and consistently interpreted by the United States Supreme Court since 1800, to confer upon Congress the sole and exclusive power to authorize the initiation of all military hostilities on behalf of the America people.
(c) The constitutional power of the President as Commander in Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where hostilities are likely, is exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) a specific concurrent resolution, (3) specific statutory authorization, or (4) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possession, or its armed forces.
(d) The initiation of military force by a President without prior and clear authorization from Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, section 4 of the Constitution.
(e) This joint resolution repeals and replaces previous statutes governing the use of military force, including the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the Authorization to Use Military Force of 2001, and the Iraqi Resolution of 2003.
Sec. 4 (a) Whenever United States Armed Forces are introduced into hostilities, the President shall report to Congress every week on the status of such hostilities.
(b) The President shall provide such other information as Congress may request in fulfillment of its constitutional responsibilities with respect to committing the nation to war and to the use of United States Armed Forces abroad.
Sec. 5. Whenever United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities, such forces shall be removed by the President if Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.
Sec. 6. This joint resolution shall take effect on the date of its enactment.
Next week is the week for candidate forums. If you live in Heyburn or Burley, I hope you go. If you live in Gooding, Wednesday is the night. I hope everyone in Twin Falls makes it standing-room only in the Council chambers next Thursday night. These candidates have the most direct impact of all elected officials on the quality of your daily life. They have our state legislators and members of congress on speed dial. They have influence beyond Twin Falls, but they are the people you can easily access daily.
Because city races are non-partisan, you are much less likely to find professional political maneuvering in play. Individuals who participate in local elections may go on to higher office, and knowing their general approach to problem solving as well as their public demeanor gives you necessary information for those elections.
Politics involves both power and influence, and every individual is concerned with it in families, groups and government. In recent times, politics has become a popular social science. This has led to an impersonal and (I believe), cynical maneuvering when applied to election campaigns. Citizens must remain skeptical of the scheming used to sway public opinion. Watching politics at the closest level possible is one way to avoid being manipulated as a voter.
What do you watch for in selecting an elected politician? I first examine what can be called heart. Another way of talking about it is motive. In this arena, I think there are two kinds of politician. The ones I support are public servants. Their impulse is to make a positive impact on the lives of their fellow citizens. The other kind of politician becomes entrapped by power and the perks of power.
It is not a bad thing for a politician support the proposed action on issues favored by the people who voted. It becomes a problem when facts change or go against the office holder’s core values. If the preferences of a few donors or even some of his supporters are not supportable when considering the common good, a statesman becomes an advocate for another solution. The unacceptable politician’s first thought is, “will this vote help or harm my political career?”
The other thing I look for in a politician is a willingness to engage in the world of public policy. This is not an easy thing, and it becomes more difficult as the scope of the government the politician is working in becomes larger. At our city level, I expect our elected leaders to be up-to-date on city issues. We have a city manager and an able civil service, but the City Council employs the manager. It is important that everyone on the Council be familiar with all aspects of city government.
Most of us have had some experience with meetings run by parliamentary procedure, and have maybe even thought it was unnecessary when running a bowling league, for instance. But that procedure is the foundation of organizing any kind of meeting where decisions are made. Not knowing enough about how meetings are organized leads to citizen frustration when their input seems to be “managed”. A good politician is someone who can engage with individuals and make them feel that their input is considered, if not always adopted.
If we become familiar with the politics we can personally participate in, we can begin to understand national and international politics. We decide which issues are important to us; then vote for a representative to a government body who seems to have good answers to those issues. Political parties do the same thing, then they endorse candidates who represent most people who tell them they are members of the party. They use political tactics to carry out the strategy of being able to carry out the answers they agree on. It is actually a straightforward process but government and all public policy is a complex system made up of other complex systems.
My approach to politics is to consider public policy first. It is what I spend my time between election cycles studying. However, once an election approaches, I look at the candidate and not the party. To the greatest extent possible, I avoid advertising, including web media, and try to get first-person evidence about both their positions and their public demeanor. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to know the candidates and issues and then vote as you will.