The Law: The Baker-Christopher War Powers Commission


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: The views here are personal, not institutional. Much appreciation to Dave Adler, Jeff Crouch, Herb Fenster, Dick Pious, Mitch Sollenberger, and Bob Spitzer for offering valuable comments on the first draft.

Louis Fisher is a specialist in constitutional law with the Law Library at the Library of Congress. He is the author of a number of books, including Presidential War Power and The Constitution and 9/11: Recurring Threats to America's Freedoms.


In July 2008, the National War Powers Commission released a detailed report that recommended the repeal of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 and its replacement with the War Powers Consultation Act. Co-chaired by former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher, the commission report promised “equal respect” to the legislative and executive branches, but, in fact, it strengthened the president's capacity to initiate war and greatly weakened congressional and public control. Instead of addressing the framers' fear of placing the war power in the hands of a single executive with an appetite for military glory and fame, the report claimed that the U.S. Constitution is “ambiguous” about war powers and that federal courts “for the most part” have declined jurisdiction over war power cases. Both assertions are false.