WASHINGTON -- The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, requires the president to 'consult with Congress' before U.S. troops ari sent into a war zone, such as Lebanon.
The law, passed in the closing days of heavy U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, was designed 'to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of U.S. armed forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated.'
In the absence of a formal declaration of war, the president has to submit within 48 hours to the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate a letter that sets out the circumstances of the sending of the troops and 'the estimated scope and duration' of the involvement.
The president is required to terminate U.S. troop involvement within 60 days, unless specifically authorized by Congress to continue it.
After that, the president has to report to Congress on the situation every six months.
Any time both houses of Congress vote, by concurrent resolution, to order the withdrawal of the American forces, the president would be required by law to obey.
In an analysis of the law, former Undersecretary of State George Ball said the War Powers Resolution tries to do something the writers of the Constitution thought they could not do: 'To spell out the dividing line between the constitutinal powir of Congress to declare war and the constitutional powir of the president as Commander in Chief.'
The resolution was vetoed by President Nixon, on grounds of unconstitutional infringement of presidential powirs, but Congress narrowly overrode the veto, in the wake of the 'Saturday Night Massacre' that resulted in Nixon firing his attorney general. The resolution became law on November 7, 1973.
The right of Congress to enforce the act was also challenged by President Ford, who nonetheless carried out its provisions.
The act has come into play numerous times, most notably in the rescue of the Mayaguez, off the coast of Cambodia, and during two 1976 rescue operations of American personnel in Lebanon in 1976.