News Release

War and the Power of the Purse

The Boston Globe noted Tuesday: “If Congress blocks funding for a surge in troops for Baghdad, as some Democrats are considering, President Bush would have little choice but to follow the law, legal specialists said yesterday.”

The paper noted that even “legal scholars normally sympathetic to the executive branch agreed that Congress could stop the war by choking off funding.”

The Globe quoted John Yoo, one of the chief legal architects of the justifications for the Bush administration’s torture policies: “Congress has complete control over the power of the purse, and it can simply say that no funds can be spent in Iraq if it wants to.”

The following analysts are available for interviews:

JULES LOBEL
Vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, Lobel said today: “The new Congress should step up to the plate to reassert its war powers and not just defer to the President. Congress should exercise its power of the purse to ensure that we withdraw our troops quickly from this tragic war in Iraq.” Professor Lobel is the co-author of the forthcoming book, Less Safe, Less Free: Why We Are Losing the War on Terror.
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DEAN BAKER
Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Baker just wrote the piece “Iraq War Lie Detector Test,” which states: “The latest version of the ‘hide behind the troops’ mode of argument is to claim that Congress lacks the ability to end the war. The story goes that President Bush is commander in chief of the armed forces, and that if he does not want to end the war, then Congress cannot force his hand. According to this argument, if Congress were to use its control of the budget to restrict funding, it would jeopardize our troops stationed in Iraq by denying them the supplies and ammunition needed to defend themselves.

“This argument is garbage. Congress has the authority to require the top military commanders in Iraq to produce a plan for safely withdrawing our troops from the country. It can also require these commanders to give their best estimate of the cost of this plan. It can then appropriate this money, specifying that the funds be used for the withdrawal plan designed by the military.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167