The League’s History

In view of growing public concern about presidential powers, the 1974 Convention adopted a two-year study of the executive branch with emphasis on presidential powers, succession and tenure. The 1976 position tied closely to earlier positions on Congress and enabled the League to take action to promote a dynamic balance between the powers of the President and those of Congress. Such a balance, according to member agreement, requires elimination of unnecessary secrecy between the branches, periodic congressional reviews of executive agreements and states of national emergency, and proper use of the procedures spelled out in the War Powers Resolution. LWVUS support of anti-impoundment measures in 1973 also was consistent with the emphasis on the balance of power between the two branches.

In 1985, the League opposed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act as a threat to this balance of power. In 1986, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the key part of the law that provided for automatic budget cuts to be decided by the Comptroller-General if deficit targets were missed. A revision of the law met the separation-of-powers objection of the Court.

The League’s Position

Statement of Position on the Presidency, as Announced by National Board, January 1976 and Revised March 1982:

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that presidential power should be exercised within the constitutional framework of a dynamic balance between the executive and legislative branches. Accountability and responsibility to the people require that unnecessary secrecy between the President and Congress be eliminated. Therefore, the League supports the following measures:

EXECUTIVE AGREEMENTS. Presidential authority to negotiate international executive agreements should be preserved. Accountability to the public requires that the President report to Congress the text of all such agreements and that Congress review them periodically.

WAR POWERS. The President should be required to seek the advice of the Congress before introducing U.S. armed forces into situations where hostilities are imminent, to report promptly to Congress any action taken, and to obtain within a specified time congressional approval for continued military activity.

EMERGENCY POWERS. Presidential authority to declare a state of national emergency should be subject to periodic congressional review. The President should transmit to Congress yearly notice of all existing national emergencies and significant orders issued under each. Congress should review the emergencies and significant orders issued under each. Congress should review the emergencies every six months and should have the power to terminate them at any time by concurrent resolution. (All states of emergency now in existence should be terminated after a grace period for adjustment.)

FISCAL POWERS. The President should exercise executive responsibility for sound management of public funds in a manner consistent with the programs and priorities established by Congress. This requires procedures for congressional consideration of the budget as a whole and measures for congressional disapproval of presidential impoundment of funds.

SUCCESSION AND TENURE. The League of Women Voters of the United States supports the succession procedures spelled out in the 25th Amendment. However, the League favors a limit on the amount of time Congress may take to confirm the Vice-President.

The League also favors retention of a two-term limitation on presidential terms of office.