Suppose that a new Congress gets elected, and they unanimously really, really really hate the government of country X, so much so that they want the US military to basically destroy it. So the government passes a law that not only declares, but also bestows upon the President a legal obligation to see that country X's government is completely upended. It leaves no room for the President to cease hostilities for more than, say, 30 days every 3 years, except as provided for by treaty.

Would this be legal?

2 Answers 2


The Constitution says "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States". As supreme military commander, the president alone gets to say whether or not to commit troops for such an expedition. Congress does have the power to control the purse. It is a fundamental principle of constitutional law that Congress cannot command the president.

  • 1
    I would agree. Congress has to power to declare war and to appropriate funds for wars, but it can't force the President to actually use force in a declared war or to actually spend the money it appropriates to carry out a war.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 23, 2023 at 4:07
  • @ohwilleke It can always impeach the President for failing to prosecute the war or use appropriated funds for war.
    – hszmv
    Feb 23, 2023 at 12:22
  • @hszmv Even an impeachment doesn't necessarily force the President or a successor President to actual use military force. And, an impeaching Congress doesn't have much control over who the successor will be. Generally, the VP will be at least moderately aligned with the President politically.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 23, 2023 at 16:40
  • So Congress could just introduce a poison pill, ex: if the hated country's president is not assassinated in the next 365 days, the Department of Education gets nothing in the next federal budget.
    – moonman239
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:06

If the President does not properly conduct his duties as President, he is subject to impeachment.

In such an exceptional circumstance, the two houses may consider that the Presidents failure to act constitutes treason, and that he/she should be impeached.

There is certainly international precedent for that: King Charles 1 of England was convicted and executed for treason. He asserted that Parliament had no jurisdiction: Parliament disagreed.

Of course, if he/she won't co-operate, perhaps congress and the senate won't co-operate with him/her. Maybe re-enact the salary and pension and expenses and security. Maybe the President will resign?

  • "perhaps congress and the senate won't cooperate" Think you mean the House (of Representatives) and the Senate. Congress is the collective term for the Legislative Branch of U.S. Government.
    – hszmv
    Feb 23, 2023 at 12:20

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