Former U.S. Congressman Tom Campbell to Speak on War Powers and The Constitution at Republican Club Meet

Published : Wednesday, June 12, 2019 | 4:39 AM

Tom Campbell, former U.S. congressman and a professor of law at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law. Image courtesy Chapman University

Do presidents overstep their bounds when declaring war?

Tom Campbell, former U.S. congressman and a professor of law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, will discuss the constitutional issues around going to war on Thursday, June 20 at the Pasadena Republican Club meeting.

In a discussion titled “War Powers and The Constitution” Campbell will give his suggestions to solving an issue that crosses both sides of the aisle.

“The constitution gives the authority to the Congress to declare war and gives to the president, the authority of Commander in Chief,” Campbell said. “And over the years, particularly since the end of the Vietnam War, the power that was intended to be in the hands of the Congress has been taken by the president. Where we are now, the president is able to go into military activity that anyone would characterize as war without the approval of Congress.”

Campbell served as U.S. Congressman for five terms representing California’s 12th and 15th districts. He is a former professor at Stanford Law School and former dean at the Haas School of Business and former professor of business administration at the UC Berkeley.

Today Campbell is a professor of law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, where he served as dean from 2011 to 2016.

“We are very fortunate to have Prof. Campbell speak,” said Lynn Gabriel, president of the Pasadena Republican Club. “He is extremely knowledgeable about the constitution and his topic is fascinating.”

Campbell grew up as a Democrat but took up the Republican reins during his college days. He is not pointing fingers at any particular party in this discussion, as presidents from both sides have declared war without the approval of Congress, he said.

During his discussion, Campbell will focus on the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to remove troops after 60 days, unless Congress has affirmatively approved the use of troops.

“The presidents of both parties and examples in all cases since Vietnam have ignored the requirement of getting Congressional approval in advance,” Campbell said. “Some presidents have actually gotten congressional approval but said they didn’t need to. And I’ll go through those examples, including Desert Storm, including the invasion of Grenada under President Reagan, the invasion of Panama under President Bush, President Obama’s bombing of Libya, president Trump’s bombing of Syria, and try to draw some important points of how we can restore the constitutional balance in this most important area.”

It’s a non-partisan issue.

“It’s a constitutional issue and presidents of both parties have gone to war without the approval of Congress and I believe acted unconstitutionally in doing so.”

Campbell said there is an important body that should have the final say.

“The conclusion I came to was that the third branch, the courts, need to step up and resolve this definitively,” he said. “Congress has allowed the president to exercise this authority. But from time to time, congress has tried to reassert its constitutional role and it’s just happened again regarding the activity in Yemen where Congress has passed a resolution calling on the President to cease all military activity supporting the Saudis in Yemen.

“And the courts will have to resolve this if the president continues to support military activity in Yemen,” he said. “The congress cannot cut off money to that without having two-thirds of both houses because if they pass an appropriation bill saying ‘no more money for this,’ the president will veto that and use the money in the pipeline.

“It requires a higher than majority of one house,” he said. “Whereas if the constitution were followed, a majority of one house could prevent America from going to war. Instead, it takes two-thirds of both houses to cut off funding. So the courts should be the ones to intervene on a case where the congressperson brings a lawsuit and the court should definitively rule the constitutionality of what’s been going on.”

The Club meeting will be held on Thursday, June 20 and starts at 6:30 p.m. with light refreshments and a no-host bar 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena. The cost is $10 per person for current RPC members and $20 for non-members. For more call (626) 793-2018 or RSVP at

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