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Rep. DeFazio Introduces War Powers Bill as a Check on President Trump’s Authority

Feb 15, 2017
Press Release
Legislation reaffirms Congress’ constitutional powers to commit American troops to conflict

Following reports that President Trump is considering sending U.S. ground forces into Northern Syria, Congressman Peter DeFazio today introduced the War Powers Amendments of 2017, legislation that clarifies under the Constitution that President Trump must seek congressional authorization prior to sending U.S. troops into combat. The legislation would also require any future president to consult with Congress before sending forces into conflicts. 


“If President Trump sends troops to Syria without asking for authorization from Congress, it would stretch far beyond his authority,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). “I criticized Presidents Bush and Obama for overstepping their constitutional authority in committing troops to the Middle East without congressional approval—If President Trump makes the same mistakes, I will offer him the same criticism. My legislation would ensure that Congress receives a detailed and definite scope of any military campaign put forth by President Trump before granting the use of any force.”


The bill provides the President an exception in the case of an immediate threat to the United States, its troops, or its citizens overseas. In addition, it would give any member of Congress the right to sue the Executive Branch if it does not comply with the bill’s provisions.


After the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s unauthorized bombing campaign in Cambodia, Congress passed a War Powers resolution in an attempt to curb the President’s powers in committing U.S. forces to armed conflict. However, that legislation was weak and allowed a president to act before coming to Congress for authority. In addition, it did not allow Members of Congress any legal recourse to enforce the War Powers Act.


Although the U.S. Constitution grants Congress, not the executive branch, the power to declare war, the war powers of the legislative branch have eroded over time. For the last fifty years, the office of the President has broadly exercised authority to commit U.S. forces to armed conflict overseas.


A recognized public watchdog of Congress’s power to declare war, Rep. DeFazio has repeatedly introduced similar legislation throughout his tenure in Congress.


To view Rep. DeFazio’s floor speech on the War Powers Amendments of 2017, click here.