What Congress can and cannot do about Iraq

David Rivkin and Lee Casey explain what, under our Constitution, Congress can and cannot do when it comes to constraining the president’s power to conduct military operations in Iraq and elsewhere. Congress can immediately cut off funding for U.S. operations in Iraq. It can also refuse to pass new appropriations once the current ones expire. However, Congress lacks constitutional authority to use its power of the purse to micromanage the president’s execution of the war by imposing conditions on his conduct of the war. As Rivkin and Casey explain:

Under our constitutional system, the power to cut off funding does not imply the authority to effect lesser restrictions, such as establishing benchmarks or other conditions on the president’s direction of the war. Congress cannot, in other words, act as the president’s puppet master, and so long as currently authorized and appropriated funding lasts, the president can dispatch additional troops to Iraq with or without Congress’s blessing.


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