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What Happened to the War Powers Act?
On Sunday night's 60 Minutes program, Scott Pelley opened an interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with the question, "How many countries are we currently engaged in a shooting war?" Surprised by the question, Panetta, who laughed heartily as if Pelley had just told him a really humorous knock-knock joke that tickled his funny bone, responded 'that's a good question. I have to stop and think about that." Panetta proceeded to answer "we're going after al Qaeda wherever they're at.... Clearly, we're confronting al Qaeda in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa...." In case you're wondering, yes, Panetta confirmed that US troops are in Pakistan.
Pelley's question could not have been more clear just as Panetta's answer was unequivocal. What neither Pelley nor Panetta, who received a law degree from Santa Clara University Law School, mentioned was that for the US to be 'engaged in a shooting war,' not to mention more shooting wars than he could recount, without congressional approval is not only unconstitutional but is a clear violation of the War Powers Act of 1973.
After the debacle in Vietnam, with the American people dispirited and exhausted from a bloody, divisive war, the 93rd Session of Congress recognized the need to restore its Constitutional authority to declare war and oversight on national security and foreign policy issues with adoption of the War Powers Act of 1973. The Act, which was also intent on improving accountability requirements for the Executive Branch, necessitated a congressional override of President's Nixon's veto.