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Presidential Power and Congressional Acquiescence in the “War” on Terrorism: A New Constitutional Equilibrium?



U.S. presidents have expanded executive power in times of war and emergency, sometimes aggressively so. This article builds on Burnham’s application of punctuated equilibria theory to suggest that the combination of President George W. Bush’s presidentialist doctrine, the external shock of the 9/11 atrocities and the president’s “war” on terror has consolidated a new, constitutional equilibrium between the president and the Congress. While some members of Congress contest the new order, the Congress collectively has acquiesced in its own marginalization. The article surveys a wide range of executive power assertions and legislative retreats AND argues that power assertions and consolidations generally draw on historical precedent and operate nonincrementally within a punctuated pattern.