Should Congress try to stop Iraq escalation? Center for American Progress cites precedets in new report

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The 110th Congress has an important responsibility to shape the country’s national security policy in order to make Americans safer and advance U.S. national security interests more effectively.
In sharp contrast to the 109th Congress, this new Congress will do more to exercise its powers and responsibility as a co-equal branch of government in shaping the future direction of the country’s Iraq policy. Such a policy will be successful only if it enjoys the informed consent of the American people. Unlike the previous Congress, the 110th seems to recognize the awesome responsibility they have to perform due diligence on our policy and on the president’s request for ever more resources to pursue that policy.

This memorandum outlines way in which previous Congresses have acted to ensure that whatever steps the president has sought to take are executed in a way that maximizes opportunities to strengthen American national security and reflects the concerns and will of the American people.

As the examples below demonstrate, past Congresses have chosen among several different policy levers to guide U.S. national security policy as it relates to the deployment of American troops. Broadly speaking, the Congress can:

Condition, limit, or shape the timing and nature of troop deployments and the missions they are authorized to undertake;
Cap the size of military deployments; and
Prohibit funding for existing or prospective deployments.
Since 1970, there have been several instances in which these powers were exercised and passed into law by Congress. Several of these are detailed below. Each of these provisions reflects the basic fact that the Founding Fathers deliberately created a system of government containing branches that were both interdependent and competitive. Each has a specific role to play and each needs to respect the role of the other branches. While the president is commander-in-chief, Congress retains the power (with the consent of the president) to establish the laws by which the United States conducts foreign policy and more importantly, to decide whether the activities in which the president is engaged are deserving of the resources from the American people he requests to conduct those policies.

Additionally, there have been hundreds of amendments—which did not ultimately become law—where members of Congress sought to shape overseas deployments. These amendments reflect modern congressional understanding of Congress’s power and authority. In particular, there were a series of attempts by Republicans and Democrats throughout the 1990s to influence deployments in the Balkans. Though largely unsuccessful on policy grounds, the provisions—an illustrative list of which appear at the back of this document—were attempted by prominent Republicans and Democrats, many of whom remain involved in today’s debate on Congress’s role in national security policy. What was true then remains true now: Congress has an obligation to remain engaged on shaping national security policy....

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