Armed Conflict Executive Branch

The Lawfare Podcast: Waxman and Ramsey on Delegating War Power

Matt Gluck, Matthew Waxman, Michael Ramsey, Jen Patja
Monday, January 22, 2024, 8:00 AM
What power does the Constitution give to the president to initiate a war?

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There is much debate among academics and policy experts over the power the Constitution affords to the president and Congress to initiate military conflicts. But as Michael Ramsey and Matthew Waxman, law professors at the University of San Diego and Columbia, respectively, point out in a recent law review article, this focus misses the mark. In fact, the most salient constitutional war powers question—in our current era dominated by authorizations for the use of military force—is not whether the president has the unilateral authority to start large-scale conflicts. Rather, it is the scope of Congress’s authority to delegate its war-initiation power to the president. This question is particularly timely as the Supreme Court appears growingly skeptical of significant delegations of congressional power to the executive branch.

Matt Gluck, Research Fellow at Lawfare, spoke with Waxman and Ramsey about their article. They discussed the authors' findings about the history of war power delegations from the Founding era to the present, what these findings might mean if Congress takes a more assertive role in the war powers context, and why these constitutional questions matter if courts are likely to be hesitant to rule on war powers delegation questions.

Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.
Matthew Waxman is a law professor at Columbia Law School, where he chairs the National Security Law Program. He also previously co-chaired the Cybersecurity Center at Columbia University's Data Science Institute, and he is Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He previously served in senior policy positions at the State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Council. After graduating from Yale Law School, he clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.
Michael D. Ramsey is the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he teaches and writes in the areas of Constitutional Law, Foreign Relations Law and International Law.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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