Miller Center

National War Powers Commission

Bipartisan panel led by Secretaries of State Baker and Christopher

Watch this video timeline of the Commission’s work

Senator Tim Kaine Again Voices Support for Miller Center War Powers Legislation, Splits with Obama On the Issue
It was reported in an October 5 New York Times article that Senator Tim Kaine, a strong supporter of legislation proposed by the Center’s National War Powers Commission, engaged President Obama in a conversation about his actions in Syria and voiced dissent about the president’s right to engage in military action without Congressional approval. The article quoted Kaine as saying, “you don’t ask people to sacrifice their lives until the nation has debated and committed to the mission. It’s immoral.” Senator Mark Warner, also a supporter of the proposed legislation, praised Kaine’s stance. The proposed legislation emphasizes greater executive and legislative cooperation on matters of war, and President Obama was briefed on it in 2008.

War Powers Legislation Introduced in the Senate

On January 16, 2014, Senators Tim Kaine and John McCain introduced war powers legislation on the Senate floor that closely mirrored legislation originally proposed by the Miller Center’s National War Powers Commission. The Miller Center’s commission recommended the repeal of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and the enactment of a War Powers Consultation Act to replace it. View the comments by Senator Kaine and Senator McCain praising the War Powers Consultation Act. Full transcript available here.

National War Powers Commission

Former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher co-chaired the Miller Center’s bipartisan National War Powers Commission. The Miller Center impaneled the Commission in 2007. Over 14 months, this bipartisan body met seven times in full-day sessions, interviewing more than 40 witnesses about the respective war powers of the President and Congress. The Commission issued a unanimous report to the President and Congress, calling for the repeal and replacement of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 with the proposed War Powers Consultation Act. Video of the press conference for the release of the report is available. In the months following the issuance of the report, Secretaries Baker and Christopher briefed President Obama and testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Commission’s proposed legislation.

Along with Secretaries Baker and Christopher, Commission members included: Slade Gorton, former U.S. Senator from Washington; Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Representative Indiana; Carla A. Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative; John O. Marsh, Jr., former Secretary of the Army; Edwin Meese, III, former U.S. Attorney General; Abner J. Mikva, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; J. Paul Reason, former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor; Anne-Marie Slaughter, then-Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; and Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin served as the Commission’s historical advisor. John T. Casteen, III, then-President of the University of Virginia, and David W. Leebron, President of Rice University, served as ex officio members.

John C. Jeffries, Jr., the Emerson Spies and Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law of the University of Virginia School of Law, and W. Taylor Reveley, III, President and John Stewart Bryan Professor of Jurisprudence at the College of William & Mary, served as Co-Directors of the Commission. The War Powers Consultation Act:

  • Provides that the president shall consult with Congress before deploying U.S. troops into “significant armed conflict”—i.e., combat operations lasting, or expected to last, more than a week.
  • Defines the types of hostilities that would or would not be considered “significant armed conflicts.”
  • Creates a new Joint Congressional Consultation Committee, which includes leaders of both Houses as well as the chair and ranking members of key committees.
  • Establishes a permanent bipartisan staff with access to the national security and intelligence information necessary to conduct its work.
  • Calls on Congress to vote up or down on significant armed conflicts within 30 days.

“This statute does not attempt to resolve the constitutional questions that have dominated the debate over the war powers, and does not prejudice the president or Congress their right or ability to assert their respective constitutional war powers,” said Secretary Baker when the report was released. “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.”

“We have tried to be as specific as possible in this report and in this legislation,” said Secretary Christopher. “We have defined the kinds of armed conflict that would be covered by the statute, and have laid out a clear course of action for both the president and Congress that is practical, constructive and deliberative.”

The principal staff members of the Commission were: Andrew J. Dubill, Staff Director of the Commission; Matthew T. Kline, Counsel to Secretary Christopher; John B. Williams, Policy Assistant to Secretary Baker; Juliana E. Bush, Policy and Planning Coordinator; and W. Taylor Reveley, IV, Coordinating Attorney for the Commission and Associate Director of the Miller Center.

The James A. Baker, III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Stanford Law School, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the William & Mary School of Law served as partnering institutions.

Partnership with Cross Examination Debate Association

Senator Tim Kaine praising Commission’s recommendation at first CEDA debate

The Miller Center has developed a partnership with the Cross Examination Debating Association (CEDA) – the nation’s largest intercollegiate debating organization – to co-host a series of four public debates on presidential war powers. The Commission’s report, which was instrumental to CEDA’s decision to pursue war powers as the topic, will inform these debates. Students representing 24 colleges and universities will participate in debates at the following dates and locations over the course of the 2013-2014 school year:

  • September 11, 2013
    George Washington University
    Press Release | Video
  • November 8, 2013
    Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation
    Press Release
  • January 29, 2014
    Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
    Photos | Video

Statement of Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, Miller Center Director, on the death of Sec. Warren Christopher

Secretary Christopher, with the Chair of the Miller Center’s Governing Council Gene Fife and his wife Anne Fife, at the Miller Center following the ceremony during which Secretary Christopher was awarded the Jefferson Medal in April 2009.

“Warren Christopher was one of the great statesmen of our time, and Chris was a dear friend to the Miller Center. He is the only person to have been awarded the University's Jefferson Medal twice, in 1982 and again in 2009. In his unfailingly courtly and unassuming manner, he participated in many Miller Center programs throughout his decades in public life. Most recently and perhaps most importantly, he co-chaired the Center's National War Powers Commission, along with Jim Baker. Through almost two years of careful work, the Commission made practical and balanced recommendations on one of the most complex and con­tested issues in our constitutional system. Secretary Christopher and Secretary Baker briefed President Obama and many other Executive Branch and Congressional leaders on the Commission's recommendations, which remain under active con­sider­ation. We will miss Secretary Christopher greatly.” The philanthropy of the Fife Family Foundation was instrumental to the work of the National War Powers Commission.


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