Congress seeks to define president’s role in using military force

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met Wednesday to discuss the role of the president and Congress when using military force.

On Nov. 14, the committee evaluated a related topic — the president’s power to fire a nuclear weapon — and evaluated the administrative procedures for firing that weapon. That hearing looked at the powers enacted by The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which places the power of firing a nuclear weapon under political control and not the military.

Wednesday’s hearing focused primarily on Article I and Article II of the U.S. Constitution and the president’s powers to act independently or with the consent of Congress when considering the use of force against an enemy.

Article I of the constitution does grant the Congress the power to “declare war.” Article II gives the president authority as the Commander in Chief:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States,” according to Article II.

Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R- Tenn., said it is in the nation’s interest to have a strong commander in chief to take quick and decisive military actions in times national security calls for it.

“That authority must be legally sound and be checked by vigorous oversight and engagement from Congress on behalf of the American people. The decision to use military force is one of the most consequential any president can make,” Corker said.

The senator said he was interested in learning more about the tests the president should use to determine if force should be used, how the president should weigh the use of force against other options, and the consideration of public opinion in these situations.

“We should look at the legal side of this issue. The reality is that unless Congress takes the rare step of withholding funding, history shows that the president’s ability to initiate military action without a congress has been extremely broad,” Corker stated. “That said, discussing the legal doctrine regarding these questions is a conversation worth having.”

Ranking Member Ben Cardin, D-M.d., expressed his concern about the president taking military action without the Congress’ consent.

“President Trump’s entire inclination to use military force and to risk war rather than to find diplomatic solutions to these crises is troubling,” Cardin said. “His attitude toward diplomacy ranges from disinterest to naivety to actively sabotaging his own Secretary of State.”

The senator remarked that the increasing tension between the president and North Korea could lead to a nuclear first strike situation.

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