386. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Abshire) to the President’s Counsel (Dean)1


  • H.J.Res.1 Concerning the War Powers of the Congress and the President

The Zablocki Resolution (H.J. Res.1) has only one operative provision.2 The Resolution would require the President to report promptly to the Congress whenever, without prior specific congressional authorization, he commits military forces to armed conflict; he commits military forces equipped for combat to the territory of a foreign nation, except for deployments which relate solely to “supply, repair, or training of United States forces, or for humanitarian or other peaceful purposes”; or he substantially enlarges military forces already located in a foreign nation.

While we believe that it is unnecessary to enact a reporting requirement into law since Congress is promptly informed whenever the President uses the armed forces, the Department does not oppose enactment of the Zablocki Resolution. The Zablocki reporting provision is geared to a standard of “prompt” reporting, rather than a specific number of hours and, therefore, would not impose an unreasonable burden upon the Executive.

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The remaining provisions of the Zablocki Resolution are either declaratory or “sense of Congress.” For example, Section 2 states that it is the sense of Congress that the President should seek appropriate consultation with the Congress before involving the armed forces in armed conflict. On the basis of my communications with Mr. Lehman of the National Security Council, the Legal Adviser to the Department of State indicated in his testimony before the Zablocki Subcommittee on June 2, 1971 that the Administration had no objection to this provision.3

The Zablocki Resolution presents no constitutional problems because it avoids the pitfall of attempting in advance to define and allocate the respective war powers of the President and Congress. The Resolution is consistent with the statement of Secretary Rogers before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 14, 1971 in which he stated that the policy of this Administration is to support cooperative measures designed to improve coordination and consultation between Congress and the Executive in the area of the war powers.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 1 US. No classification marking. Drafted by Kristine Strachan (L) on July 30. Cleared by Deputy Legal Adviser Carl Salans and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations Harrison Symmes.
  2. For text of the resolution, passed by a voice vote on August 2, see Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, War Powers Legislation, p. 862.
  3. For text of John Stevenson’s testimony, see House Committee on Foreign Affairs, War Powers Legislation: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-Second Congress, First Session (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971), pp. 52–57.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 385.