War Powers Resolution Law and Legal Definition

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 is a federal law introduced to check the power of the President in committing the U.S. to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress.

The resolution made Congress not only the sole authority to declare war, but to initiate any kind of offensive operations, big and small. The president's initiative to defensive war was limited for the purpose of repelling sudden attacks.

The resolution established:

1. the principle of collective decision making;

2. the concept of shared power in foreign affairs; and

3. the democratic ideal that war power is placed with the legislative branch, which is the branch closest to the people.

The effect of the resolution is that the President can send the U.S. forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or in case of a national emergency created by attack upon the U.S., its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.