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Presidential power and congressional acquiescence in the "war" on terrorism: a new constitutional equilibrium?

Owens, John E. (2006) Presidential power and congressional acquiescence in the "war" on terrorism: a new constitutional equilibrium? Politics & Policy, 34 (2). pp. 258-303. ISSN 1555-5623

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2006.00015.x


US presidents have expanded executive power in times of war and emergency, sometimes aggressively so. This article builds on the application of punctuated equilibria theory by Burnham (1999 and Ackerman (1999). Underpinning this theory is the notion that rapid changes in - or external shocks to - domestic and international society impose new and insistent demands on the state. In so doing, they produce important and decisive moments of institutional mobilization and creativity, disrupt a pre-existing, relatively stable, equilibrium between the Congress and the president, and precipitate decisions or nondecisions by the electorate and political leaders that define the contours for action when the next crisis or external shock occurs. The article suggests that the combination of President George W. Bush's presidentialist doctrine, 9/11 and the 'war' on terror has consolidated a new, constitutional equilibrium. While some members of Congress contest the new order, the Congress collectively has acquiesced in its own marginalization. The article surveys a wide range of executive power assertions and legislative retreats. It argues that power assertions generally draw on precedent: on, for example, a tradition of wartime presidential extraconstitutional leadership extending to presidents, such as John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, as well as to Cold War and post-Cold War presidentialism.

Item Type:Article
Research Community:University of Westminster > Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, School of
ID Code:3998
Deposited On:24 May 2007
Last Modified:05 Nov 2009 11:44

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