New commission to debate war powers
Published: Wednesday February 28, 2007
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A new panel will debate whether Congress or the president has the constitutional power to wage war, The Wall Street Journal<'s/i> "Washington Wire" blog reports.

"The newly launched National War Powers Commission will be chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, fresh off leading the Iraq Study Group, along with another former top diplomat, Warren Christopher," reports Neil King, Jr. for the "Wire." "The panel enter a debate almost as old as the republic, but also one that is particularly salient now as Democrats in Congress ponder whether to curtail funding for the Iraq war or even to repeal the 2002 measure authorizing it."

The commission has been assembled by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and is reportedly receiving no federal funding.

"The Commission's principal goal is to produce a bipartisan report that makes recommendations about how Presidents and Congresses could best exercise their respective war powers," says a Miller Center press release. "The Commission's recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress."

The text of the Miller Center press release follows. The "Washington Wire" item is available in full here.


In keeping with its tradition of assembling national commissions of major stature, the Miller Center has convened the National War Powers Commission, a private bipartisan panel led by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher. The Commission will examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.

When armed conflict is looming, debates about separation of powers and the uncertainty they often generate can impair relations among the branches of government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of government action, and prevent focused attention on policy. Armed conflicts with non-state actors and other non-traditional "wars," as well as the courts' involvement in war powers questions, make the Commissionís work relevant.

The Commission intends to produce a report making recommendations to assist Presidents, Congresses, Courts, and other policymakers in addressing war powers issues. When they are issued, the Commission's recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress.

The Commission's work and deliberations will entail an analysis of various legal issues, as well as historical and practical considerations. The Commission intends to rely on existing scholarship, the wide experience among its members, and the counsel of other experts. Commission members hope their report will make a positive contribution to the public debate on the proper exercise of war powers; educate the public about these crucially important issues; and promote greater agreement and more productive working relationships among the branches of government. The Commission intends to make its report and recommendations available to members of government, scholars, and the media.