Extraordinary Action

Jacob Banta

On September 29th, 2016, the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill aimed at giving restitutions to the families of 9/11 victims. The restitutions would come from Saudi Arabia, a Middle Eastern country known for being home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 attackers. There are many theories which point the blame of 9/11 towards Saudi Arabia, alleging financial ties between the Saudis and the 9/11 terrorist. Saudi Arabia is one of the few allies the United States has in the Middle East and suing them for links to terrorism can cause many diplomatic issues to arise.

This topic is a direct reflection of the United States’ separation of powers. It is not always rare to see a president veto a bill put on the table by the Congress but it is exceptionally rare for President Obama to do so. Over the span of nearly eight years, President Obama has only vetoed twelve bills. The only thing rarer than that is Congress vetoing the president’s veto.

This topic is personal to me because although I would think of myself as conservative and not always “on the same page” with President Obama, I believe he was genuine when he said “sometimes you just have to do what’s hard and I wish Congress here would just do what’s hard” in an interview with CNN following the decision by Congress. This statement expresses that President Obama wants what’s best for 9/11 families but understands the political and legal issues that will arise from passing this bill. This bill will allow past issues with Saudi Arabia to now have time in a court room, creating more diplomatic issues in the Middle East.

“What provisions, if any, allow the president to take extraordinary action in wartime?”

According to the article 1, section 8, clause 11 of the US Constitution; Congress is the only branch of government with the right to declare war, however that same clause makes the president the commander in chief of the armed forces and able to direct military forces after a declaration of war has been made.

Although the Constitution does not directly state the president’s rights to direct military forces before a declaration of war has been made by Congress, many presidents have used this discrepancy to engage in battle without expressed permission by Congress as a way to engage in battle without permission by Congress. The US military has been in many war-like conflicts since WW11, however Congress has not declared war since WW11.

Congress has many senators and representatives that form the Congress, however if an attack is made on the US, it would be nearly impossible to inform all the Congressmen in time to make an informed decision as to whether or not the US is declaring war. This is where the president or commander in chief should come in. With the heads of the military working directly for the president, it allows the president to be briefed on the situation and allows him to address the military while Congress is informed and decides on a declaration of war. However this discrepancy in the Constitution could allow the president to make a large scaled attacks on the other nation without the approval of Congress.  For example, the Vietnam War was not really a war. It was considered a conflict and was never approved by congress meaning the current president had the power to start a war without officially starting a war.


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