389. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for Congressional Relations (Korologos) to President Nixon1
- War Powers Legislation
The Senate today, after three weeks of debate, passed a strong War Powers bill by a 68–16 vote. 40 Democrats were joined by 28 Republicans voting for the bill. Three Democrats joined 13 Republicans against it.
- The bill was introduced December 6, 1971, by Senator Javits, Senator Bentsen, Senator Eagleton, Senator Everett Jordan, Senator Spong, Senator Stennis and Senator Taft. (Tab A is a short analysis of the bill).2
- Chief Administration allies against it were Senator Goldwater, Senator Dominick, Senator McGee, Senator Gurney and Senator Beall. (Democrats put great pressure on McGee to back off, but he stood fast.)
- Our chief arguments against the bill were:
- It raises serious constitutional questions.
- It would limit the President’s ability to respond flexibly and quickly to emergencies, and create dangerous confusion at home and abroad in the event of attack.
- It creates a serious erosion of credibility of the U.S. as a collective security partner in eyes of all allies, especially NATO.
- We also conveyed a strong veto possibility.
Since the Senate was bound and determined to pass “something” in the War Powers area to “vindicate” itself for allowing Vietnam to happen, there was little or no chance of beating the measure or of getting any pro-Administration amendments adopted.
Our strategy, therefore, amounted mainly to delay and to stimulate Senate debate (at the request of Doc Morgan of House Foreign Affairs), to show that there was controversy, that there were amendments to be offered, and that there was no unanimous approval of the ultimate Senate action.
The basic problem working against us was Stennis. He had become a co-sponsor and once Senators saw this, they began to follow him, saying that if Stennis was for it, it couldn’t be that bad.
MacGregor and Korologos talked with Stennis (3/30/72) at great length about getting him to back off the bill and go for one of our options. However, he told us he was in too deep to back away, even though he was admittedly uncomfortable siding with Javits.
Nonetheless, we offered a series of amendments as follows:
- Hruska/Ervin proposal to refer bill to Judiciary for 45 days of further study. Rejected, 26–60. (4/11/72)
- Beall Amendment creating a commission to study the whole issue. Rejected, 23–56. (4/12/72)
- Dominick Amendment substituting Zablocki bill (which would call on the President only to report troop commitments). Rejected, 22–56. (4/12/72)
- Dominick Amendment providing that nothing in the bill would restrict the President’s authority to conduct intelligence operations he deemed necessary to national security. Rejected, 29–49. (4/12/72)
- Dominick Amendment providing that nothing in the act shall be construed to limit Presidential authority in implementation of U.N. Charter or any treaty ratified by the United States. Rejected, 24–53. (4/12/72)
- McGee Amendment adding a new section to the bill calling for a National Commission on U.S. Foreign Policy, National Commitments and War Powers. Rejected, 19–57. (4/12/72)
- Dominick Amendment permitting the President to retaliate with respect to armed attack on U.S. forces overseas in addition to being able to repel such attack. Rejected, 37–45. (4/13/72)
- Buckley Amendment amending the U.N. participation act requiring Congressional approval before the President could permit U.N. to use U.S. Armed Forces for enforcement purposes. Rejected, 27–55. (4/13/72)
The Opposition also offered some interesting amendments:
- Gravel Amendment to make the bill applicable to Vietnam (the proposal specifically excludes the Vietnam War). Rejected, 11–74. (4/11/72)
- Gravel Amendment calling for immediate declaration of war against North Vietnam. Tabled, 78–7. (4/11/72)
- Fulbright Amendment designed to avoid implication that Congress is giving negative or implicit sanction to continuing Vietnam War. Rejected, 28–56. (4/11/72)
- Fulbright Amendment banning first use of nuclear weapons without Congressional approval. Rejected, 10–68. (4/12/72)
Our best chance of beating the bill is in the House, where Morgan has expressed strong opposition. The long debate, amendments, and parliamentary maneuvering in Senate should show the House that there is controversy and hopefully the bill will die in Committee.
MacGregor and Cook of Congressional Relations will begin immediately to work on House Foreign Affairs Committee.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 315, Congressional, Vol. 4. No classification marking. Marked “Red Tag.” A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Sent through MacGregor.↩
- Tab A is attached but not printed; see Document 392 for a summary of the bill’s provisions.↩