House Rules Committee to Take Up War Powers Act Reform

March 16, 2021 by TWN Staff
A display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The House Rules Committee is set to explore the limitations of the War Powers Act and how the House rules process can reform it to work more effectively.

The hearing, Article I: Reforming the War Powers Resolution for the 21st Century, was jointly announced by committee Chair James McGovern, D-Mass., and Ranking Member Tom Cole, R-Okla. It will be held on Tuesday, March 23 at 11 a.m.

“The War Powers Resolution was enacted nearly 50 years ago to ensure Congress plays its constitutional role in matters of war and peace,” McGovern said. “Yet in practice, we’ve seen a slide toward unchecked executive power and limited action by Congress to stop it. 

“For the first time in all my years in Congress, we now have an administration that supports reining in executive war power, including ending this ‘forever war’ approach taken by previous administrations,” he continued. “The time is finally right to reform the War Powers Resolution and set a new course for the authorization of military force.”

Cole noted that for years, there has been a growing tension between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government when it comes to any number of issues, including authority on matters of war.

He said he hoped the hearing would encourage a bipartisan dialogue on the issue and how to retain congressional primacy in such affairs.

“Although the War Powers Act was designed to address a specific problem at a specific time in history, the law has failed to rein in the expansion of executive branch authority nearly 50 years later,” Cole said. “Next week, I look forward to hearing from experts and considering potential ways to restore congressional authority and modernize this legislation for the 21st century.”

This bipartisan hearing follows the committee’s Article I: Constitutional Perspectives on the Responsibility and Authority of the Legislative Branch hearing last year. 

The committee examined how this altered balance of power compares to what the Founders intended, how the role of the branches of government has changed over time, and how the authority of the legislative branch has diminished as a result – all with the goal of identifying opportunities to reassert congressional authority.

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