Limitations on Presidential Power

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Limitations on Presidential Power 

It is often the case that presidents attempt to extend the powers constitutionally allowed to them. This largely occurs with regards to foreign policy, an area which many presidents have attempted to exploit. Attempts by congress to prevent this are as follows:

  • A series of revelations about CIA covert operations during the late 1960s and early 1970s led Congress to pass new legislation requiring that the CIA make periodic reports to a Congressional intelligence committee. These efforts to restrict the CIA were part of a larger attempt to rein in the presidency.
  • Furthermore, President Richard Nixon's impoundment of federal monies (that is, his refusal to spend Congressional appropriations with which he disagreed), and his claim that he did not need to answer a court order because he possessed "executive privilege," led many to argue that the president's domestic behavior was also out of control.
  • However, it was in the area of foreign policy that these critics of executive power voiced their greatest concerns—in particular, Nixon's continuation of the war in Vietnam without a formal declaration of war from Congress led some to bewail the rise of the "imperial president." 
  • In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Act in order to prevent future presidents from engaging in undeclared military conflicts. Under the act's terms, the president is required to notify Congress within 48 hours of deploying troops "into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." This triggers a 60-day clock during which the president has the authority to use these troops without any further congressional authorization. But at the end of that period, if Congress has not passed a resolution extending their deployment, these troops must be withdrawn. Moreover, if Congress wants the troops removed before the 60 days expires, it can pass


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