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the war powers act

            Two kinds of War Powers Legislation awaited final action in the Senate and the House in 1973. One would establish strict limits on the President's power to take the country into war without specific authorization by Congress, in pursuance of the power to declare war given to the Congress by the Constitution. The other, more importantly, allowed Congress to use Congressional power to prevent the Executive from taking us into a third Indo-Chinese war. .
             Presidential war-making powers did not become a substantial threat to the Congressional power to declare war until the 21st century with the appearance of what used to be called gunboat or dollar diplomacy in our relations in Central America and the Caribbean. They termed it Yanqui imperialism. Then too, as with the undeclared war in Vietnam, this was a bi-partisan phenomenon. It was summed up in a futile report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that earlier experience made this look like a dress rehearsal for our involvement in Indochina.
             The character and course of the war powers legislation in Congress showed the same weaknesses that allowed presidential power to grow so strong in the past. One difficulty was foreseeing the contingencies under which war may arise. When the Constitution was being written, Congress was first given the power to make war, but this was changed to declare. The purpose of this change was twofold, to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and to free him as commander in chief from interference by Congress in the day-to-day operations of the armed forces once war had been declared. Too specific a spelling out of presidential powers would have restricted his powers too greatly or given him a blank check in advance for actions that might go far beyond the means of being legitimate.
             Congress passed war powers bills but they died with the session when the differences between them could not be reconciled.

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