Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Constitutional Study: Congressional Powers

Article 1

Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal*, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.


Well, since I am a Constitutional Fundamentalist I must admit that, indeed, Congress does have the final say about War. Whether people agree or not, it is clearly stated in the Constitution what the rules are. I don't really see where there is much controversy or question about it.

In regards to Iraq, my personal feelings about it are that it would be irresponsible and immoral for Congress to hastily withdraw funding for the war. I don't know what the best answer is because I'm not a military or stategic expert. But common sense kind of says that withdrawal isn't really the easy option that some make it out to be.

And I'm pretty much disgusted at all the Congresspeople who are hollering about their "20/20 hindsight" about their previous votes for the war. Of course, we all can name many things in our pasts that we would have changed had we known then what we know now. It's completely meaningless for people like John Edwards to jump up and say that they have changed their minds now. You can't go back and change what you did. Just accept it and move on.

Anyway, regardless of my individual feelings about it I have to accept the final decision of the representatives of my fellow citizens. This is the way it works in America. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't. And when you don't, it's always best to move on instead of whine and complain about your loss, or to flippantly say you've changed your mind in hindsight.

---------
* written authority granted to a private person by a government to seize the subjects of a foreign state or their goods ; specifically : a license granted to a private person to fit out an armed ship to plunder the enemy

Hey, how can I get one of those? ;-)

7 comments:

dhammett said...

Hindsight or not, Congress did declare war. Then, Article II, Section 2 states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States;" So, how does Congress reassume control of the military? Can they un-declare war? Or are they in it, now, for the duration, that is, as long as the President decides? Seems to me, and I'm no expert, that absent impeachment, Congress is obligated to see this through.

Rae Ann said...

dh, I think that the following are the relevent parts:

"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years"

"To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces"

"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"

Sorry, I'll have to finish in a fe minutes. Time to pick up the youngest.

Rae Ann said...

a fe(w) minutes later ;-)

Since the Constitution does not specifically say what exactly are all the powers of the "Commander in Chief" I think we have to defer to the specified powers of Congress. What I get from it is that the President is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but he still must follow the "Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces" set up by Congress. The biggest thing is, of course, that Congress controls the purse strings ("no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years"). That is where their main power over the President and the Armed Forces lies, but also they have the power "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining" the armed forces with the States having some limted powers that must follow "the discipline prescribed by Congress."

As I learned it in school this limited power of the President as Commander in Chief was a "balance of power" measure to assure that one person didn't have too much control over the armed forces. Of course, we can't let Congress have too much control either, but it looks pretty clear from the Constitution how it's supposed to be regarding war.

Again, I'll say that I think it would be immoral and irresponsible for Congress to "pull the plug" too soon.

And another thing, it kind of pisses me off that Congress is having all kinds of expensive, time-consuming hearings and whatnot with "Constitutional experts" about this issue when they could just ask me. ;-)

dhammett said...

No doubt Congress controls the purse strings. But how much $ do you think Congress will cut as long as the troops are still overseas? That's political suicide.

By "organizing, arming and disciplining" I think the Constitution contemplates the actual creation and propagation of the military, that is, the nuts and bolts of the structure, not their activities in time of war. The part about the states refers to organizations like the National Guard.

I still think the Prez can keep 'em there as long as he likes, so long as he's willing to run the (unlikely) risk that funding will be cut.

Rae Ann said...

"But how much $ do you think Congress will cut as long as the troops are still overseas? That's political suicide."

Honestly, I think that they don't care about the troops, and apparently many of their constituents don't either, as reported about some anti-war rallies on the news last night. It's hard to know what the bulk of the general population really wants because all you hear about in the media are Congress and the other talking heads.

If Congress cuts the funds it really puts the pressure on Bush to either pull them all out or face much criticism for keeping them there without funding.

In the current political climate Bush will lose either way just because no one wants to give him any credit for anything. The media, etc. has made it a "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't" situation.

Well, I think that history will be much kinder to Bush and will recognize that he was in one of the most difficult situations a President has faced.

dhammett said...

I agree that many members of Congress don't care about the troops. But they do care about being re-elected. Remember the outrage when it was alleged the troops did not have adequate personal and vehicular protective gear? How much worse will it be if Congressman X or Senator Y votes to withhold funds while troops are still in Iraq. No matter how a left-leaning media spins it, it will still look bad for whoever decides not to give money for the troops.

Anonymous said...

RA- Hey, how can I get one of those? ;-)

Write to your congresspeople! It's got to be worth a shot.

CIP