A new bill from Sens. John McCain (R – AZ) and Tim Kaine (D – VA) would dramatically change the legal status of the United States in starting future wars across the world.
McCain noted that the Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war, saying the reason they never bother to anymore is that war is “changing” and he wants to change the rules.
The bill would repeal the 1973 War Powers Act, which attempted to set a new standard for starting wars but which has been ignored by many presidents in their assorted conflicts. It would replace it with a similar law urging “consultation” with Congress and a vote within 30 days of any “significant” conflict.
Sen. Kaine said the War Powers Act had failed and it was time for the US to “normalize the appropriate level of consultation” ahead of wars.
President Obama has famously flouted the War Powers Act, openly refusing to bring the Libyan War up to a vote in 2011, and claiming the right to attack Syria in 2013. It was only after huge public opposition that he agreed to “consult” Congress on Syria, but even then his administration maintained they could’ve launched the war at any time over the explicitly rejection of Congress.
The replacement law is filled with exemptions, allowing the president to unilaterally start wars of a “humanitarian” nature and not needing consultation on “secret” military operations.
The exemptions suggest that the new law, if it indeed is passed, will be just as prone to being ignored by presidents. That may even be by design, since McCain, a noted hawk, has repeatedly urged President Obama to start wars without Congressional approval, saying Congress wouldn’t dare do anything about unilateral wars anyhow.