November 7, 1973 – Congress Passes the War Powers Act

On this day in history, Congress passed the War Powers Act.

This resolution (P.L. 93-148) was passed over the veto of President Nixon on November 7, 1973, to provide procedures for Congress and the President to participate in decisions to send U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities. It was intended to check the president’s power to sustain wars without congressional approval. It stipulates that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, “statutory authorization,” or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”

Nixon and a map of the Vietnam region

Nixon and a map of the Vietnam region

The War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

The War Powers Act has never been successfully employed to end any military mission.

This detailed report by the Congressional Research Service dated 2012 and entitled “War Powers Litigation Initiated by Members of Congress Since the Enactment of the War Powers Resolution” gives a sense of the disagreements between the executive and legislative branches of government over this Act.


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