Baker-Christopher Panel Calls For New War Act

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 has failed to promote cooperation between the Executive and Legislative Branches and should therefore be repealed and replaced with a new pragmatic law, recommends the National War Powers Commission co-chaired by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher. In fact, the commission’s report, which the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville issued earlier this month, calls on the next Presidential Administration to work with Congress to enact a new law called the War Powers Consultation Act of 2009 within the first 100 days of assuming power. “While no statue can guarantee the President and Congress work together productively, the act we propose provides a needed legal framework that encourages such consultation and affords the political branches a way to operate in this area that is practical, constructive, fair, and conducive to the most judicious and effective government policy and action,” the 12-member commission writes. Under the new act, the President would consult with Congress before deploying troops into “significant armed conflict” (i.e, combat operations lasting, or expected to last, more than a week) and Congress would vote up or down on the issue within 30 days. The act would define the hostilities that are considered significant armed conflicts, create a new joint Congressional consultation committee, and establish a permanent bipartisan staff with the necessary security clearances to conduct its work.