Provide a case study paper, which examines the process of the shared powers between the executive and legislative federal branches of government as it relates to this particular article. You will want to relate the case study to what you have learnedREMEMBRANCE OF POWERS LOST
POLITICS & GOVERNMENT
THE SOURCE: “Congressional Abdication” by Jim Webb, in The National Interest, March/April 2013.
BEHOLD THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS OF the legislative branch in the realm of foreign affairs: to declare war,
to raise an army and maintain a navy, to ratify treaties.
The Founding Fathers weren’t as generous with the president: He is commander in chief, but in deciding matters of
war and peace, lawmakers are to keep the chief executive on a short leash, lest he resemble a monarch.
Congress has shirked those weighty constitutional responsibilities, contends Jim Webb, a recently retired Democratic
senator from Virginia. On an alarming number of occasions since 9/11, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have
thumbed their noses at Capitol Hill. Cowed by political pressure or suffering from collective amnesia, Congress hardly
In 2008, President Bush signed a wide-ranging Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. The Bush administration
deftly avoided labeling the agreement a “treaty,” so the document didn’t require Senate ratification. “But neither was it
a typical executive-branch negotiation designed to implement current policy and law,” writes Webb, a Marine Corps
veteran, novelist, and onetime Republican who served as secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. After the
investment of hundreds of billions of dollars and the loss of thousands of American lives, the “framework” determined
the course of substantial U.S. assistance to the fledgling regime in Baghdad for years to come.
Webb, who served one term in the Senate (2007-13), says Bush should have consulted Congress about something
so consequential. Instead, the administration kept the agreement under wraps until the eleventh hour. Just before it
was signed, Webb requested access to the document. Other lawmakers weren’t so diligent: “It appears that I was the
only member of the Senate who at least at that point had actually read it.” The Iraqi parliament, meanwhile, voted on
the pact two times.
In May 2012, President Obama pulled a similar stunt. After more than a year of negotiations with Afghanistan, he
skirted congressional oversight by signing “a legally binding executive agreement,” as the White House termed it.
Obama labeled Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” and pledged long-term economic and military aid to Hamid
Karzai’s regime in Kabul–all without consulting Congress.
It wasn’t Obama’s first executive end-around. In 2011, he hastily ordered the U.S. military into action to protect Libyan
civilians from forces loyal to Muammar al-Qaddafi. The commander in chief of the armed forces can authorize such
strikes without congressional approval if time is short and the threat is grave. But in this case, there was no direct
threat to the United States. Even when the intervention dragged on for months–and the financial costs mounted–the
president refused to loop in Capitol Hill. Congressional leaders didn’t even schedule a debate on the matter.
“President Obama has arguably established the authority of the president to intervene militarily virtually anywhere
without consent or the approval of Congress,” Webb marvels, “at his own discretion and for as long as he wishes.”
The precedent “has the potential to haunt us for decades.”
The worst of it, according to Webb, is that Congress doesn’t howl in protest. In the post-9/11 world, lawmakers blanch
at the thought of questioning the president’s national security prerogatives. Few have sought formal debates over
these issues; in the Senate, leaders barred all Libya-related legislation.
Negligence and dereliction plague Capitol Hill, Webb argues. “As in so many other areas where powers disappear
through erosion rather than revolution, many members of Congress do not appreciate the power that they actually
What’s more, in today’s world of drones and special operations forces, the president can order actions that fly under
the radar of the American public. Congressional oversight is needed now more than ever.
Webb says his former colleagues should dust off their copies of the Constitution and remember their duties. “One
hopes Congress–both Republicans and Democrats–can regain the wisdom to reassert the authority that was so
wisely given to it so many years ago.”
Webb, J. (2013, Spring). Remembrance of powers lost. Wilson Quarterly, 37(2), 65-67. Available
from The National Interest.
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