WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his initial run for office, then-candidate Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, said reclaiming congressional war powers would be among his highest priorities if he took office. On Thursday, Meijer alongside U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, introduced legislation that in large part would do that.
“It's a bipartisan, bicameral effort to take back to Congress, a lot of the war powers, a lot of the emergency powers and a lot of the arms export powers that specifically, the first two were quite explicitly mentioned as belonging to Congress in Article I of the Constitution,” Meijer said. “But Congress over time has ceded a lot of those powers to the president. And it's time that we bring those powers back.”
The National Security Reforms and Accountability Act would overhaul the post-Vietnam War Powers Act, requiring congressional approval for any military action longer than 20 days and cut off funding for military operations that aren’t approved by lawmakers.
The act would also require a large number of foreign weapons sales be authorized by Congress and would put a 2-year expiration on Authorizations of Use of Military Force, while also requiring approval of National Emergency Declarations within 30 days of a president's declaration.
“For decades, presidents of both parties have slowly but surely usurped Congressional authority on matters of national security. It’s happened regardless of who occupies the Oval Office or which party is in charge on Capitol Hill. Clearly, this is not the system of checks and balance our constitution envisions. Congress is the branch closest to the people and it is our duty to make tough decisions about when, where, and how to put American troops in harm’s way,” McGovern said. “We need to come together in a bipartisan way to reclaim our rightful role as a co-equal branch of government before it’s too late, and that is what the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act aims to do.”
“It's time for us to clean that slate, it's time for us to have those powers be with Congress, as our founders intended, and grant more accountability and more checks and balances to how our government operates, so we don't continue to see failure after failure,” Meijer added.
This push amplified by the spotlight put on the recent, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the authorization that led to it becoming America’s longest war.
“Imagine how different the past 20 years in Afghanistan would have been, if every two years members of Congress had to go and cast a vote on to whether or not they would continue to send American men and women into harm's way overseas,” Meijer questioned. “Imagine the questions they would be asking in that scenario and imagine the explanations, the answers that the White House that the Pentagon would have to articulate in terms of what the mission was and why they were doing it. None of that occurred."
“We have seen very little oversight for the simple fact that these boards were operating under their own momentum," Meijer said. "So that is a very clear way in which not the traditional responsibilities of Congress, there's been an end run around the by the executive, because again, Congress has ceded that power. We need to take that back.
Its unclear when and if this legislation will see a vote in the House, but there is a lot of support from both sides of the aisle and it mirrors similar legislation in the senate, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Christ Murphy, D-Connecticut.
To read the full bill text, click here.