Congress can overrule the President on any decision - including all military policies. A two-thirds vote in both houses overrides a Presidential veto, and the President must then obey and implement whatever law Congress has passed, on penalty of impeachment if he fails to do so. As Congressman Ron Paul, (R-TX) correctly writes,
"The role of the president as Commander in Chief is to direct our armed forces in carrying out policies established by the American people through their representatives in Congress. He is not authorized to make those policies. He is an administrator, not a policy maker. Foreign policy, like all federal policy, must be made by Congress. To allow otherwise is to act in contravention of the Constitution."
Many people who should know better seem to believe that the President somehow has the authority -- all by himself -- to determine the Military and Foreign Relations policies of the United States of America. Wrong! This belief is dangerous nonsense, first concocted by extremist ideologues in Reagan's Justice Department, then modified and promoted by the Bush Administration, in eager pusuit of ever-greater Presidential power.
The truth is, the President is not supposed to be the Great Decider, but the Capable Administrator, who faithfully executes whatever laws are duly enacted by Congress.
"Congress makes the laws. The President faithfully executes the laws. The Supreme Court interprets the laws." This is how it is now, and always has been, under our Constitution. And nothing about this changes in time of war.
Therefore, Congress has the Constitutional authority to establish whatever policies it wants in Iraq. If the President disagrees, he can veto the act passed by Congress. But Congress has the final say, because it can override a Presidential veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. The act then becomes law, regardless of the President's veto. And the President is obligated to obey and implement that law, even it he disapproves of it. If he fails to do so, Congress can impeach him and remove him from office, for the high crime of deliberately refusing to execute a law duly passed by Congress.
The Supreme Court ruled decisively on this exact subject in the early days of our Country, when the Founders' intentions were fresh and clear in people's minds. The case is named LITTLE v. BARREME, and you can read it here:
This powerful and important decision has never been struck down, and it stands as law up to the present day. Far from being some kind of irrelevant old decision, that may have subsequently been overruled, it is as strong and important today as it always has been.
The question in this case involved President John Adams giving orders which contradicted an Act of Congress, regarding a military action in a time of semi-declared war. And the Supreme Court ruled that the President's actions were illegal, because they violated an Act of Congress.
And in this precedent-setting case, Chief Justice Marshall provides us today with the answer to a question which was never even asked when the Founders wrote the Constitution, because it was obvious to everybody then that Acts of Congress were more authoritative than anything the President might want to do. Congress makes the laws, the President faithfully executes them. And if he fails to do so, Congress can remove him from office.
In the absence of a Congressional limitation, the Executive may exercise reasonable use of his Inherent Powers as head of the Executive Branch and Commander-in-Chief of the Military. But Congress may impose upon the President whatever limitations it may choose, under its Inherent Powers to enact all Federal laws.
Legislative power always supersedes Executive power. The tail must not wag the dog.
Rev. Bill McGinnis is an Internet Christian minister, writer and publisher. He is Director of LoveAllPeople.org, a small private think tank in Alexandria, Virginia, and all of its related websites, including (more...)