Tomorrow night at 9PM, President Bush will address the nation and announce an escalation in the war in Iraq by sending about 20,000 more U.S. troops. Sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq will hurt, not enhance, U.S. national security and the American people; their representatives and the military commanders on the ground strongly oppose this course of action. Can Congress do anything about it? Some have claimed that anything other symbolic action is unconstitutional. That’s false. While funding for troops currently in Iraq and Afghanistan must continue and be protected, many legal experts agree there are a range of legal options available to Congress to stop, or place conditions on, any escalation in the war in Iraq. As a new report from the Center for American Progress illustrates, Congress has passed bills and enacted into law policies that capped the size of military deployments, prohibited funding for existing or prospective deployment, and placed limits and conditions on the timing and nature of deployments.
- Congress has historically exercised authority to cap U.S. troop levels in foreign conflicts. In 1974, the Foreign Assistance Act established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year. In 1983, the Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act “required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.” In 1984, the Defense Authorization Act “capped the end strength level of United States forces assigned to permanent duty in European NATO countries at 324,400.” All of this legislation was enacted into law.
- Congress has also restricted funding for being used to fund certain operations for U.S. troops. In 1970, the Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law “prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.” In 1982, the Defense Appropriation Act “prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.” In 1994, Congress restricted the use of funds “for United States military participation to continue Operations Restore Hope in or around Rwanda after October 7, 1994.”All of these funding restrictions were enacted into law. Alternatively, Congress has authorized military action subject to various conditions. Read the report for more examples.
- Some members of Congress are refusing to sit on the sidelines. Today, Sen. Ted Kennedy will propose one option, asserting Congressional authority and demanding accountability for the president’s policy. Kennedy “will introduce legislation on Tuesday to require the president to gain new Congressional authority before sending more troops to Iraq. The bill is the first proposal in the Senate that would prohibit paying for an increase in American troops over their level on Jan. 1.” Kennedy’s action is similar to a proposal outlined in an American Progress memo released in December which recommended “an amendment on the supplemental funding bill that states that if the administration wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq above 150,000, it must provide a plan for their purpose and require an up or down vote on exceeding that number.”
Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.