Lawmakers challenging military action

They plan lawsuit seeking to require Congress' OK

April 30, 1999|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress plan to go to court today to try to stop further use of U.S. military forces in the war against Yugoslavia.

In the lawsuit, which was being drafted late yesterday by lawyers for Rep. Tom Campbell, a California Republican, 10 or more lawmakers will ask a U.S. district judge in Washington to force President Clinton to end military action in the Balkans until he gets approval from Congress.

Past attempts to persuade the courts to second-guess a president's use of military force have not fared well. But the lawmakers preparing the new challenge insist they have found ways to overcome the defects of earlier cases.

Campbell's legal challenge will contend that without explicit approval from Congress, current military operations are illegal under the War Powers Act of 1973. The lawmakers maintain that the United States should not be allowed to take further military action until Clinton receives authority from Congress.

The lawsuit will be patterned after a 1990 case filed by 53 House members and one senator in an effort to stop President George Bush from attacking Iraq, Campbell's office said yesterday.

In the 1990 lawsuit, a federal judge became the first to declare that the courts are the place to settle constitutional arguments over which branch of government may order U.S. troops into action.

The judge ruled that in some situations, members of Congress have the legal right to sue over the war-powers issue.

A section of that ruling that could be difficult for Campbell to overcome says the courts should not act unless a majority of the Congress makes it clear that there is an impasse between the legislative branch and the president.

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