WASHINGTON—The last time Congress voted against a president's policy for American troops at war was in 1970, when the Senate and House of Representatives voted to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the 1964 vote that President Johnson used to expand American involvement in South Vietnam.
In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which placed restrictions on the president's use of force. President Nixon vetoed it, and Congress passed it again over his veto. The War Powers Resolution has been a matter of dispute ever since and has never been challenged in the courts.
"The last time there was a declaration of war was after Pearl Harbor, in December 1941," said Fred Beuttler, the deputy historian of the House. "After that, American military activity has usually been authorized by congressional resolution rather than declaration of war. This has led occasionally to a constitutional gray area, between the president's powers as commander in chief and Congress' power to declare war and `raise and support armies.'"
Congress also restricted funding for the Vietnam war and barred U.S. forces from expanding the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia via the Cooper-Church amendment, enacted Jan. 5, 1971.
More recently, Congress weighed in on another war with far less U.S. involvement. In the 1980s, the Boland amendments prohibited spending U.S. funds to aid the Contra rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.