War Powers: The President, the Congress, and the Question of War

By Donald L. Westerfield | Go to book overview

Preface

The U.S. Constitution is remarkable in so many ways. Scholars have studied it for over 200 years and will continue to do so, finding new meanings with each study. While the Founding Fathers provided enough of a foundation to guide the nation in a general direction, they left many of the powers and responsibilities of the Congress and the executive inextricably intermingled. These overlapping areas still confound constitutional and legal scholars.

Even before the drafting of our Constitution was completed, recurring questions on the scope of power of Congress versus the president as chief executive and commander in chief were the basis for seemingly endless debate. Documents in this book indicate that this debate continues with the same emotion and intensity as in those early days of the drafting of our Constitution. My own interest of many years in the Constitution and in the questions underlying this issue became almost overwhelming while I was conducting research for my second book, Congressional Intent, which I coauthored with the late Congressman Thomas Curtis. At that time Congress was concerned about whether the president should seek its approval before sending U.S. armed forces to help Kuwait against a possible attack by Iraq.

For the next few months, almost on a daily basis, members of Congress, the news media, and members of the president's staff and cabinet were embroiled in the issues associated with the powers of the president as commander in chief and whether or not any action taken by the president would be covered by the War Powers Resolution. It was obvious from the discussions in the news media by the "experts" from Congress and from the White House that there were serious disagreements among them regarding

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