Saturday, February 03, 2007

How to End the War

By Russ Feingold

Our founders wisely kept the power to fund a war separate from the power to conduct a war. In their brilliant design of our system of government, Congress got the power of the purse, and the president got the power of the sword. As James Madison wrote, “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.”

Earlier this week, I chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to remind my colleagues in the Senate that, through the power of the purse, we have the constitutional power to end a war. At the hearing, a wide range of constitutional scholars agreed that Congress can use its power to end a military engagement.

The Constitution gives Congress the explicit power “[to] declare War,” “[t]o raise and support Armies,” “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy” and “[t]o make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” In addition, under Article I, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” These are direct quotes from the Constitution of the United States. Yet to hear some in the Administration talk, it is as if these powers were written in invisible ink. They were not. These powers are a clear and direct statement from the founders of our republic that Congress has authority to declare, to define and, ultimately, to end a war.

If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers—defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a president whose policies are weakening our nation.

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