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Former U.S. secretaries of state James Baker (left) and Warren Christopher, members of the National War Powers Commission, in Washington, D.C., on July 8.
A bipartisan commission is recommending new legislation that would foster more consultation between the president and Congress before the nation goes to war.
The proposed legislation would replace the War Powers Act, passed in 1973 by a Vietnam-weary Congress that wanted to check the president's ability to initiate an unpopular war. Observers of all political persuasions have called the 1973 resolution vague and impractical.
The National War Powers Commission, led by former secretaries of state James Baker and Warren Christopher, recommends creating a joint congressional committee with whom the president would have to consult before sending troops into conflict. The full Congress would have 30 days to ratify any military action.
The new proposal would lead to clarity and consultation, which are lacking under the current War Powers Act, says international law professor Michael Glennon, a former legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who also consulted with the commission.
"It would be a better policy, because if you can't sell a war to the Congress, you can't sell it to the American people," says Glennon. "It's good for Congress and the president to be on the same page when a war starts, and that's the whole purpose of the war powers resolution."