Micromanaging vs. Oversight

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We read about this exchange between Sen. Joseph Biden and Tim Russert on Talking Points Memo today:

MR. RUSSERT: You said the other day that this is President Bush’s war, and there’s…

SEN. BIDEN: It is.

MR. RUSSERT: …there’s really little Democrats can do. Why not cut off funding for the war?

SEN. BIDEN: I’ve been there, Tim. You can’t do it.

MR. RUSSERT: Why?

SEN. BIDEN: You can’t do it. It’s—what—because it made sense in the Constitution when you said you could cut off funding when you had no standing army. We have a standing army with a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars. You can’t go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, “You can’t spend the money on this piece and this piece and”—he—able—he’ll be able to keep those troops there forever constitutionally if he wants to.

MR. RUSSERT: Why not have legislation then that would cap the number of troops in Iraq?

SEN. BIDEN: Because it’s very difficult to—it’s constitutionally questionable whether or not you can do that. I think it is unconstitutional to say, “We’re going to tell you you can go, but we’re going to micromanage the war.” When we wrote the Constitution, the intention was to give the commander in chief the authority how to use the forces, when you authorize them, to be able to use the forces.

NBC’s Meet the Press, January 7, 2007

And then, in another Sunday morning studio, new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had this to say on Face the Nation:

The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them. But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it and this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions.

CBS’s Face the Nation, January 7, 2007

We’re wondering: what exactly is micromanaging? What’s oversight? And how do you tell the difference? Where should — where will — this Congress draw that line, and will it come down to political expediencies or Constitutional realities?

Charles Rangel

U.S. Representative, D-NY

Andrew Rudalevige

Professor of Political Science, Dickinson College

Author, The New Imperial Presidency: Renewing Presidential Power after Watergate

Robert Turner

Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

Associate Director, Center for National Security Law

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