Sunday, April 25, 2004

Will Congress Cave-in and Cede Its Constitutional Authority?

700 million dollars was transferred from operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan by the Bush Administration without notification of Congress, according to Woodward's new book, Plan of Attack.

Administration officials do not deny that money was diverted, nor do they provide any proof the President fulfilled his legal obligations. Their only defense is that the transfer was legally justifiable. We shall see, I suppose.

The question remains open whether the Congress will investigate the issue or fold and set a terrible Constitutional precedent. If Presidents can divert money from authorized programs to start their own wars, unauthorized by Congress, the Constitutional order will be overturned disasterously.

The Founders made a very deliberate choice not to vest war powers in the Executive for fear of enabling the sort of tyranny represented by the despots of 18th century Europe. Settling the power of the purse and the power of war in Congress was their answer to the problem of Executive initiative in international and military affairs. The power of war is on the brink of complete capture by our Executive; if the power of the purse is invaded, the Executive will be able to embroil America in aggressive wars without even the pretense of Congressional consent.


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