Congress and the Conduct of War

August 24, 1942

Report Outline
War Powers of Congress and the President
Role of Congress in Past Wars
Congress and World War Ii

War Powers of Congress and the President

Subordinate Place of Congress in War Making

Once Congress has declared war, the task of organizing the nation's war effort, as well as making ultimate decisions on matters of military policy, rests primarily with the President. Congress must supply funds and must enact legislation relating to prosecution of the war, but the pressure of time and the complicated nature of many of the problems involved make it necessary for the legislature to confer upon the executive branch of the government far more extensive powers than those ordinarily delegated in time of peace.

Members of Congress have registered objections to blanket criticisms, directed, solely at the legislative branch, by persona dissatisfied with the present war effort. While admitting' the justice of some complaints, senators and representatives have noted that many of the accusations are false, or are the result of exaggerated opinions regarding the responsibility of Congress in directing the war. It is true that differences of opinion have always existed, among both laymen and members of the legal profession, as to the division of war powers between the executive and legislative branches of the government. This confusion is sometimes reflected in charges that Congress is usurping functions rightfully belonging to the President and is therefore “interfering” in the conduct of the war. On the other hand, it is sometimes asserted that Congress is neglecting to take its proper place in the prosecution of the war and thereby hampering the war effort.

Senator Taft (R., Ohio) directed the attention of the Senate, July 27, to what he said was an example of the unjustified attack being made on Congress. He read from an editorial which listed many complaints and called, among other things, for “airplanes that can climb 30,000 feet.” According to Taft, the entire editorial was “turned against Congress, and yet, what on earth have we got to do with airplanes that will climb 30,000 feet? … That is something I am certainly not an expert on. Full authority has been given to the administrative officials. If blame attaches to anyone in that connection, of course it must attach to the administrative officials” Taft felt that such unwarranted attacks on Congress interfered with the progress of the war to a greater degree than any action Congress might take or neglect to take.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Constitution and Separation of Powers
Sep. 07, 2012  Re-examining the Constitution
Jan. 29, 1988  Treaty Ratification
Mar. 27, 1987  Bicentennial of the Constitution
Jan. 31, 1986  Constitution Debate Renewed
Mar. 16, 1979  Calls for Constitutional Conventions
Jul. 04, 1976  Appraising the American Revolution
Sep. 12, 1973  Separation of Powers
Jul. 12, 1972  Treaty Ratification
Apr. 19, 1967  Foreign Policy Making and the Congress
Mar. 05, 1947  Contempt of Congress
May 10, 1945  The Tariff Power
Jul. 01, 1943  Executive Agreements
Jun. 01, 1943  Advice and Consent of the Senate
May 24, 1943  Modernization of Congress
Jan. 18, 1943  The Treaty Power
Aug. 24, 1942  Congress and the Conduct of War
May 09, 1940  Congressional Powers of Inquiry
Nov. 09, 1939  Participation by Congress in Control of Foreign Policy
Apr. 21, 1937  Revision of the Constitution
Feb. 24, 1936  Advance Opinions on Constitutional Questions
Oct. 04, 1935  Federal Powers Under the Commerce Clause
Jun. 19, 1935  The President, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court
Sep. 10, 1928  The Senate and the Multilateral Treaty
Dec. 16, 1926  The Senate's Power of Investigation
Oct. 03, 1924  Pending Proposals to Amend the Constitution
Congress Actions
U.S. at War: World War II
War and Conflict
World War II