'Congress should be consulted before president can go to war'

Former secretaries of state James Baker III and Warren Christopher say the next time the president goes to war, Congress should be required to say whether it agrees. The co-chairmen of a bipartisan study group have proposed legislation that would require the president to consult lawmakers before initiating combat lasting longer than a week, except in cases of emergencies. In turn, Congress would have to act within 30 days, either approving or disapproving of the action. The plan, outlined by Baker and Christopher in an essay published Tuesday in The New York Times, would not necessarily prevent future debate on the so-called "war powers" issue. Instead, it would create a new consultative process between the White House and Congress to help prevent a potential constitutional showdown. Congress' involvement in approving combat operations became a central issue in the Iraq debate last year, when Democrats tried to force President George W. Bush to end the war.