Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can Congress Limit the President's Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons?

"Recent legislation proposed in the 115th Congress intended to limit the President's ability to launch nuclear weapons has prompted heightened attention on Congress's constitutional power to control the nuclear arsenal. As outlined in earlier CRS products, the Constitution allocates the authorities necessary to conduct war and other military operations between Congress and the President. But the precise contours of each branch's respective powers have been the subject of debate since the founding era. Moreover, courts traditionally have been reluctant to resolve wartime separation of powers disputes between the legislative and executive branches, often dismissing these cases on jurisdictional grounds without reaching the merits of the constitutional challenges.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, commentators have reached dramatically differing conclusions on the constitutionality of proposals to restrict the President's power over the nuclear arsenal. Proponents of congressional authority reason that Congress's many enumerated war powers—including the power to power "raise and support Armies" and "provide and maintain a Navy"—necessarily subsume a lesser authority to define how the President may utilize the forces and weapons that Congress has provided. But proponents of executive authority often argue that such restrictions would unconstitutionally infringe on the President's "commander in chief" power to make tactical decisions on how best to subdue an enemy..." 
President and nuclear weapons

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