McGovern, Mace Work to Restore Checks and Balances Between White House and Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C.  Today, Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced H.R. 4928, the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act (NSRAA), major new legislation to reassert Congress’ power over matters of national security.

This bipartisan bill would reinforce 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 would be required to consult congressional leaders and obtain congressional authorization before exercising the powers in question.

“Allowing administration after administration – presidents from both sides of the aisle – to usurp Congressional authority on matters of national security without check is irresponsible. The Constitution of the United States is clear: the power to declare war rests solely with the Congress and it is crucial we reassert our body’s power to make the tough decisions about when, where, and how to put American troops in harm’s way,” said Representative Jim McGovern. “It’s important we come together in a bipartisan way to reclaim our role as a co-equal branch of government before it’s too late. That is what the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act aims to do.”

“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. “The American people are tired of endless foreign wars, and want to know they have a say via their elected representatives. This important piece of legislation goes a long way to restoring the authority the Founding Fathers gave Congress and ensuring our men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation are not needlessly sacrificed.”

The new legislation is already backed by over a dozen organizations.

“The NSRAA gives Congress the opportunity to reassert its constitutional duty to make decisions about war and peace and to finally turn the page on decades of failed U.S. foreign policy. Our legislators should honor the courage of those willing to put themselves in harm’s way on America’s behalf by having the courage to vote on when our servicemembers are sent to war,” said Russ Duerstine, Executive Director, Concerned Veterans for America. “By passing this bipartisan measure, Congress will send a clear message to the American people that they have been heard — and after the end of a 20-year war in Afghanistan, valuable lessons have been learned — lessons that will prevent future wars from becoming open-ended, decades-long entanglements.”

“For 50 years, the ACLU has been steadfast in insisting on the necessity and vitality of our system of checks and balances in restraining presidential emergency and war powers—regardless of which party holds power,” said Hina Shamsi, Director, ACLU National Security Project. “Unfortunately, as the last two decades have amply demonstrated, presidential powers can all-too-easily be abused, with devastating consequences for human rights and civil liberties, abroad and at home. These reforms are essential for Congress to fix our broken system and reassert its role as a meaningful check on presidential powers."

“As the past few decades have shown, presidential emergency and war powers can be all-too-easily abused, undermining our system of checks and balances and enabling executive overreach,” said Aisha Woodward, Policy Advocate, Protect Democracy. “The National Security Reforms and Accountability Act is critical legislation that would restore to Congress oversight of these vast presidential powers and ensure greater democratic accountability for decisions about war and peace. These reforms are key to Congress reclaiming its constitutional role and making our government more accountable to the people.”

“Going to war, declaring a national emergency, selling deadly weapons — these decisions are supposed to be hard. But administration after administration have made them wantonly, with few checks on their powers, and little accountability for their consequences,” said Stephen Miles, President, Win Without War. “The result has been decades of endless warfare and foreign policy disasters. It’s time for a change. The NSRAA is a critical first step to reining in the powers of war, and putting them back where they belong: in the hands of the people.”

“This reform legislation represents a historic recalibration of power. For too long, Congress has allowed the president to usurp the legislature’s own powers when it comes to war-making and national emergencies. This has made our nation less safe, undermined democratic accountability, and enabled presidential overreach,” said Elizabeth Goitein, Co-Director of the Liberty & National Security Program, Brennan Center for Justice. “The bill introduced today would give Americans a real voice in the national security choices that profoundly affect our lives.”

Other supportive quotes from organizations can be found HERE.

The National Security Reforms and Accountability Act 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.