Bigger war role for Congress proposed
James Baker and Warren Christopher chaired bipartisan panel on war powers issue
Former secretaries of state propose new process between White House, Congress
President would have to consult Congress before starting conflict longer than a week
Congress would have to approve or disapprove within 30 days
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former secretaries of state James Baker III and Warren Christopher say the next time the president goes to war, Congress should be required to say whether it agrees.
The co-chairmen of a bipartisan study group have proposed legislation that would require the president to consult lawmakers before initiating combat lasting longer than a week, except in cases of emergencies.
In turn, Congress would have to act within 30 days, either approving or disapproving of the action.
The plan, outlined by Baker and Christopher in an essay published Tuesday in The New York Times, would not necessarily prevent future debate on the so-called "war powers" issue.
Instead, it would create a new consultative process between the White House and Congress to help prevent a potential constitutional showdown.
Congress' involvement in approving combat operations became a central issue in the Iraq debate last year, when Democrats tried to force President Bush to end the war.
After taking control of Congress in January 2007, Democrats tried to cap force levels and set a timetable for withdrawals. They lacked a veto-proof majority to put the restrictions into law, and the White House argued that such legislation would have violated the Constitution by infringing upon the president's role as commander in chief to protect the nation. Democrats disagreed, contending there was ample precedent.
Baker, who served as secretary of state in the first Bush administration, and Christopher, who served under President Clinton, were to discuss their findings at a news conference Tuesday morning.
The panel has been studying the issue for more than a year and consulted more than three dozen experts. Other members of the panel include former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, who in 2006 led the Iraq Study Group with Baker; former Attorney General Edwin Meese III; and Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state.
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