Pelosi comment on War Powers: somebody help me out here

In talking about the new war funding authorization bill today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offered some comments on how Congress (specifically the Dem Congress) is trying to rein in and narrow Bush’s war-making powers. In the process, she made a comment that worries me a little. I don’t think I’m bothered so much that she said it, exactly, as I am by the fact that her view is apparently defensible.

I’m not being very articulate here, so let me paraphrase what she said as best I can:

The War Powers Act is a double-edged sword. It says that if the country is attacked the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief is triggered and he functionally has no limits on his power. He thought he had all the authority he needed after 9/11 – and he did. (Emphasis mine.)

So the construction looks this way. If we are attacked, Bush needs no Congressional proclamation to act in the defense of the country. Check. In the absence of that attack, he needs Congressional authorization. Check. On September 11 the US was attacked. Check.

So that gave Bush the authority he needed to invade … Iraq? A country with no connection whatsoever to 9/11?

If I buy this broad interpretation, it seems to suggest that in the wake of 9/11 Bush could have invaded Canada. That’s assuredly not what Pelosi is saying, but there’s a disconnect somewhere between her mouth and my brain. I’m hoping one or more of you can educate me since I’m not really a legal scholar: in what possible way did the War Powers Act provide Bush with authorization to invade a nation that had absolutely nothing to do with the precipitating attack on us?

3 replies »

  1. The War Powers Resolution (aka Act) allows the president to conduct “war” for 60 days, regardless of whether we are attacked or not. At the 60 day mark, he must consult with Congress. Congress can either extend the president’s war powers for an additional 30 days, authorize open-ended war, or shut him down by refusing to authorize additional hostilities. In theory, the president can attack anyone, even Canada. 🙂 In the case of attacks, the president has full authority to repel any and all attacks. Thus, for Iraq, he needed “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002” (PL 107-243).

    PL 107-243 (Oct. 2002) served the requirement of consultation with Congress from the War Powers Resolution and gave the president authority to decide whether or not to initiate open-ended war with Iraq. Now, they’re in the position of having to reclaim the power they gave away and convert Iraq to a limited-term military action.

    Or so I understand.

  2. Yeah, well, Congress giving that power away is another bugaboo of mine, but I screamed enough about that when it happened.

    I’d be in favor of attacking Canada if Vancouver reaches the Cup Finals, btw.

  3. I’d be in favor of attacking Canada just so we could surrender and be designated Canuck territories. 😉