WASHINGTON - The next time the president goes to war, Congress should be consulted and vote on whether it agrees, according to a bipartisan study group chaired by former secretaries of state James Baker III and Warren M. Christopher.
In a report released yesterday, the panel says the current law governing the nation's war powers has failed to promote cooperation between the executive and legislative branches. It says the 1973 resolution should be repealed and replaced with new legislation that would require the president to inform Congress of any plans to engage in "significant armed conflict," or noncovert operations lasting longer than a week.
In turn, Congress would act within 30 days, either approving or disapproving the action.
Baker, who served as secretary of state in the first Bush administration, said the proposal isn't intended to resolve constitutional disputes between the White House and Congress on who should decide whether the nation fights.
"What we aim to do with this statute is to create a process that will encourage the two branches to cooperate and consult in a way that is both practical and true to the spirit of the Constitution," Baker said in a statement.
A new joint House and Senate committee would be established to review the president's justification for war. To do so, the committee would be granted access to highly classified information.
The panel has briefed the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as congressional leadership.
Spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama commends the panel. McCain did not provide comment.