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McGovern, Meijer Lead Introduction of Sweeping New Legislation to Reassert Congressional Power Over National Security

New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Restore Balance of Power Between the President And Congress; Would Reclaim Congressional Oversight of Arms Sales, Emergency Declarations, and Use of Military Force

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Washington, September 30, 2021 | comments
New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Restore Balance of Power Between the President And Congress; Would Reclaim Congressional Oversight of Arms Sales, Emergency Declarations, and Use of Military Force
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Chairman of the House Rules Committee James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, & Accountability, alongside Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5410, the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act (NSRAA), sweeping new legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reassert congressional power over matters of national security.

FACT SHEET | SUPPORT FOR THE NSRAA | BILL TEXT

Their bipartisan bill aims to recalibrate the balance of power between the president and congress by reclaiming congressional oversight of arms sales, emergency declarations, and the use of military force. In each case, the president is required to consult congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising the powers in question.

“For decades, presidents of both parties have slowly but surely usurped Congressional authority on matters of national security. It’s happened regardless of who occupies the Oval Office or which party is in charge on Capitol Hill. Clearly, this is not the system of checks and balances our constitution envisions. Congress is the branch of government closest to the people and it is our duty to make tough decisions about when, where, and how to put American troops in harm’s way,” said Representative Jim McGovern. “We need to come together in a bipartisan way to reclaim our rightful role as a co-equal branch of government before it’s too late, and that is what the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act aims to do.”

“Allowing administration after administration – presidents from both sides of the aisle – to supersede Congress’ authority over matters of war and peace is a dereliction of congressional responsibility,” said Representative Peter Meijer. “Congress must reassert its role in national security decisions, especially those that impact our servicemembers. The National Security Reforms and Accountability Act will put Congress back in the driver’s seat so we can deliver on our duty to the American people as it is laid out by the Constitution. I’m proud to help lead this important effort in the House.”

“For far too long, Congress has been missing in action on core issues of National Security, including when and how America uses military force,” said Representative Barbara Lee. “It’s past time we reassert our Constitutional authority to decide these matters. Congress is representative of the people, and the people deserve input in our use of military force. This legislation will go a long way toward re-establishing Congress’ responsibilities as a co-equal branch of government.”

“It doesn’t matter what political party is in the White House, Congress must restore the powers granted to it by the Constitution, especially in matters of war,” said Representative Nancy Mace. “Committing troops to foreign engagements is one of the most solemn duties of any government. This important piece of legislation goes a long way to restoring the authority the Founding Fathers gave Congress.”

“Congress is an equal branch of government and should behave as such. I have long called on Congress to reassert the authorities granted to it under Article I of the Constitution, especially Congress’s sole power to declare war and authorize U.S. involvement in military conflict,” said Representative Peter DeFazio. “Our legislation would rein in Executive overreach and close loopholes that have allowed presidents of both parties to sidestep congressional authorization on matters of national security for decades. Notably, it includes important provisions I’ve long fought for that would add teeth to the War Powers Resolution and firmly re-establish Congress’s constitutional war powers authorities.”

“The Constitution of the United States is clear: the power to declare war rests solely with the Congress,” said Representative Joaquin Castro. “The balance of power between the executive and legislative branches has undoubtedly shifted over time – sometimes leading to unchecked executive authority on major decisions, including war, arms sales, and emergency declarations. It’s imperative that Congress reassert its constitutional authority. The National Security Reforms and Accountability Act will help restore critical oversight and accountability over the most consequential decisions on war and peace.”

“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the erosion of Congress’s responsibilities as a co-equal branch of government,” said Representative Ted Lieu. “Whether it is engaging in military conflicts without Congressional approval or arms sales without the consent of Congress, both Democratic and Republican presidents have taken liberties in asserting authorities that fall under Congress’s purview. The Founders laid out a vision for checks and balances within the government meant to guarantee one branch could not wield disproportionate power over others. I’m pleased to join Reps. McGovern and Meijer in introducing the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act, which will fortify Congress’s authority in key areas of national security decision-making.”

Similar bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate, S. 2391, the National Security Powers Act, by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

The legislation has three parts—war powers reform, arms export reform, and national emergencies reform – all unified by a set of rules and procedures that reassert and safeguard congressional prerogatives. In each case, the president is required to consult congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising the powers in question. Congressional authorizations will have to meet specific requirements, including an automatic sunset. Activities lacking such authorization will face an automatic funding cutoff after a specified number of days. While similar, the House and Senate versions are not identical. The House version includes international law provisions in the war powers and arms sales titles and does not prescribe special procedures for joint resolutions of approval for arms sales.

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