Recently both Houses of the United States Congress passed their version of an emergency funding bill for the war in Iraq. One particular item in these bills has not only caught the attention of everyone in Washington, but throughout nation. Both bills included a deadline for troop withdrawal. What is disturbing about this course of action is the issue around the separation of powers.
Per the United States Constitution, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the military. This role provides him/her the ability to command the troops which includes dispatching them where they are needed and bringing them home when the mission is completed. Congress, on the other hand, has the authorization to declare war, create laws and levy taxes.
In this instance, Congress has side-stepped the Constitutional authority of the President to dictate when the troops should be withdrawn. No matter what side of the debate you are on about Iraq, one thing we all should be concerned with is the blurred lines that Congress created with its action.
One of the lessons Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and rest of Constitution Convention of 1787 learned from their years under British tyranny was that one branch of government should not have too much power and go unchecked. After considerable debate, the Constitutional Convention agreed that there should be three branches of the federal government with equal power – checks and balances.
By dictating troop withdrawal in the spending bill, Congress has now not only set a precident, but has also shifted the balance of power from equal parts among the three branches to a majority in the Legislation Branch. If this shift goes unchecked, we as citizens could see other powers grabs not only by Legislation Branch, but possible in the future by other branches of the government.
I am not saying we will see the fall our our federal goverment or mass chaos in our streets, but we could very well see a branch of government that could easily abuse their power without any repercussions of their actions. Let’s hope our leaders in Congress realize the dangersous path their actions could cause to our system of goverment.