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Appeals court upholds presidential war powers

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal appeals court Thursday upheld a lower court's dismissal of a challenge to the president's power to use military force in Iraq.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a district court judge who had dismissed a challenge from a group of antiwar lawmakers and activists claiming the president cannot act without a declaration of war by Congress.

In rejecting the plaintiffs' argument unanimously Thursday, the three-judge appeals panel in Boston said, "As the circumstances presented here do not warrant judicial intervention, the appropriate recourse for those who oppose war with Iraq lies with the political branches."

The suit sought a preliminary injunction preventing President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from initiating a war in Iraq.

The plaintiffs included several outspoken congressional foes of the war: Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Illinois; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington; and Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan. Parents of active duty personnel also were among the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs had argued that the resolution approved by Congress in October backing the possible use of military force against Iraq was unconstitutional because Congress had wrongly handed over to the president its exclusive power to declare war.

But the court said there was no evidence that Congress has abandoned its authority to declare war.

"To the contrary," it said, "Congress has been deeply involved in significant debate, activity and authorization connected to our relations with Iraq for over a decade under three different presidents of both major political parties, and during periods when each party has controlled Congress."

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