ACLU Warns of Danger to Congress's War Powers in Iraq Resolution

October 10, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today warned that the joint resolution authorizing force against Iraq, while significantly improved from the President’s original proposal, poses a danger to the war powers granted to Congress by the Constitution.

“This compromise is better than the President’s original resolution because it is limited to Iraq and specifically reaffirms the War Powers Act,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Still, the resolution’s failure to specify an objective creates the danger that the President will use the authority granted in ways Congress did not intend and would not have approved.”

Alternative proposals that more clearly spell out the purpose of military action, such as the bipartisan resolution proposed by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), appeared certain to fail because of White House opposition. “The President’s refusal to set forth an objective for the use of force is deeply unfortunate, as it forces members of Congress to vote without the information they need to make an informed decision,” Edgar said.

As a question of policy, the ACLU is neutral on whether the United States should go to war. However, it is firm in its conviction that the constitutional obligations on Congress to make decisions about war need to be respected, especially with foreign policy questions of this magnitude.

The final vote on passage was 296 to 133 with a majority of the Democratic caucus and six Republicans voting no. The Senate vote to limit debate on that chamber’s war resolution was 75 to 25.

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