THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Thursday, June 8, 1995 TAG: 9506080471 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: FROM WIRE REPORTS DATELINE: WASHINGTON LENGTH: Medium: 83 lines
After an emotional debate over who has the power to send young men and women into war, the House voted Wednesday evening to uphold a 22-year-old law that restricts a president's authority as commander in chief.
The House, over the objections of the Republican leadership, voted 217-201 against repealing the 1973 War Powers Resolution, a controversial Vietnam-era measure that asserts congressional authority over presidential decision-making in a military crisis.
The 1973 law requires the president to report to Congress within 48 hours of sending U.S. troops into hostile situations. Congress then has 60 days to declare war. If Congress does nothing, the act requires the president to withdraw the troops.
The repeal would have required the president to consult with Congress, but would have taken away Congress' ability to force the withdrawal of troops after 60 days.
GOP leaders attributed the outcome - a surprise - to skittishness by Republicans over giving President Clinton more authority during the current crisis in Bosnia.
``A number of our members felt that, on the edge of Bosnia, they didn't want to do something to strengthen the president's hand, they didn't want a vote to come back to haunt us. Maybe our timing was wrong,'' said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
On the face of it, the timing of the vote was curious. Some of the same Republicans pushing for the repeal have been harshly critical of Clinton's policy on Bosnia, saying he has been inching the United States toward war.
But Republican critics have long contended that the War Powers Resolution infringes on the president's constitutional powers as commander in chief of the armed forces. They proposed the repeal as an amendment to a foreign aid bill being debated in the House.
``In an emergency, the commander in chief has to act as the commander in chief,'' Gingrich said. ``If tomorrow morning there were an attack on our troops, I certainly hope they wouldn't stand there taking casualties waiting for the president to come to us.''
Opponents of the repeal agreed that the War Powers Resolution is flawed. But they said it has been important, symbolically, to rein in would-be adventurous presidents intent on waging war.
``Congress can stand against a president or behind a president'' when considering military action, said Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind. ``What Congress should not do is stand aside.
``This represents an abdication by the Congress of our responsibilities and an erosion of our powers,'' Hamilton said.
On the roll call, Republicans voted 178-44 to repeal the War Powers Resolution, while Democrats voted 172-23 to keep it. The one independent in Congress also voted to keep the act.
The action was an amendment to a bill that would make deep cuts in foreign aid and dismantle aid, arms control and information agencies. The overall legislation is scheduled for a final vote today.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan, also has supported repealing the resolution, but Wednesday's House vote appears to make the issue moot for at least this year.
That leaves a situation where the act remains in place, but typically ignored. Presidents have gotten around it by informing Congress of military action, but not giving it a formal report. Thus, the 60-day clock never begins ticking.
Congress, for its part, has never withdrawn troops once an action has begun. ILLUSTRATION: Associated Press File/Jan. 20, 1991
In 1991, Congress approved the use of force in the Persian Gulf.
HOW THEY VOTED
A ``yes'' vote was a vote to repeal the War Powers Act.
Herbert Bateman, R-Va. Yes
Owen B. Pickett, D-Va. Yes
Robert C. Scott, D-Va. No
Norman Sisisky, D-Va. Yes
Eva Clayton, D-N.C. No
Walter Jones Jr., R-N.C. Yes