Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Can Congress stop the surge?

Some Democratic Congressional leaders have been advocating their "non-binding" resolution against the surge in part because they're saying that Congress doesn't have the Constitutional authority to actually stop or limit the President's actions. The following is a history of times where Congress has, in fact, put limits or conditions on the money authorized for military action.

There is a legitimate point to be made regarding whether Congress can limit money that has ALREADY been authorized, which clearly the President will be using to start the surge. But just as clear will be the need for the President to come to Congress and ask for more money to keep it up.

Here's the question. Will Congress give the President the money (attempting to hide behind the "we can't stop him" argument), let him fail, and reap the political benefits in 2008 -- at the cost of the American lives that will be lost in the surge? Or will Congress stand up now, make it clear that no additional support for the surge will be coming, force the surge to an end, and perhaps compel a saner solution to the bloody adventure that is Iraq?


(From AlterNet (, citing the Center for American Progress. Pay special attention to the ones in the late nineties, where a Republican Congress attempted to control the Clinton administration's policies in the Balkans.)

Examples of Funding and Authorization Limitations Enacted into Law

January 1991. P.L. 102-1 - A joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Congress granted the president the authority to use force in Iraq but conditioned it on him first certifying that means other than war would not result in Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.

October 1994. P.L. 103-423 - A joint resolution regarding U.S. Policy Toward Haiti. Congress supported a "prompt and orderly withdrawal of all United States Armed Forces from Haiti as soon as possible."

September 2001. P.L. 107-40 - A joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan. The president initially sought authorization to use force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." The final resolution authorized "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the 9/11 attacks.

October 2002. P.L. 107-243 - A joint resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Like the Afghanistan resolution a year earlier, the Iraq resolution reflected some changes sought by Congress. For example, the president initially sought authorization to use force "to restore peace and security in the region." Congress succeeded in striking that provision, and made the exercise of the authority granted in the resolution conditional on the president certifying that Iraq would not harm the war on terrorism, but it failed in attempts to insert other limitations on the president.

Troop Caps Enacted Into Law

December 1974. P.L. 93-559 - Foreign Assistance Act of 1974. The Congress established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year.

June 1983. P.L. 98-43 - The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983. The Congress required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.

June 1984. P.L. 98-525 - The Defense Authorization Act. The Congress capped the end strength level of United States forces assigned to permanent duty in European NATO countries at 324,400.

July 2000. P.L. 106-246 - Military Construction Appropriations and For Other Purposes - Personnel Ceiling in Colombia: "no funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act (including funds described in subsection (c)) may be available for-- (A) the assignment of any United States military personnel for temporary or permanent duty in Colombia in connection with support of Plan Colombia if that assignment would cause the number of United States military personnel so assigned in Colombia to exceed 500; or (B) the employment of any United States individual civilian retained as a contractor in Colombia if that employment would cause the total number of United States individual civilian contractors employed in Colombia in support of Plan Colombia who are funded by Federal funds to exceed 300."

Funding Restrictions Enacted into Law

December 1970. P.L. 91-652 - Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.

June 1973. P.L. 93-50 - Supplemental Foreign Assistance, "None of the Funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1974, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purposes."

December 1982. P.L. 98-215 - Defense Appropriations Act. In what became known as the Boland Amendment, Congress prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.

November 1993. P.L. 103-139. The Congress limited the use of funding in Somalia for operations of U.S. military personnel only until March 31, 1994, permitting expenditure of funds for the mission thereafter only if the president sought and Congress provided specific authorization.

September 1994. P.L. 103-335. The Congress declared "no funds provided in this Act are available for United States military participation to continue Operations Restore Hope in or around Rwanda after October 7, 1994, except for any action that is necessary to protect the lives of United States citizens."

June 1998. P.L. 105-85 - Defense Authorization Bill. The Congress prohibited funding for Bosnia "after June 30, 1998, unless the President, not later than May 15, 1998, and after consultation with the bipartisan leadership of the two Houses of Congress, transmits to Congress a certification-- (1) that the continued presence of United States ground combat forces, after June 30, 1998, in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is required in order to meet the national security interests of the United States; and (2) that after June 30, 1998, it will remain United States policy that United States ground forces will not serve as, or be used as, civil police in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

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