On December 23, 2011 President Obama sent a letter to congress titled Statement by the President on H.R. 2055. In the letter he writes “The Congress has also included certain provisions in this bill that could interfere with my constitutional authorities in the areas of foreign relations and national security. Section 113 of Division H requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the Appropriations Committees of both Houses of Congress 30 days in advance of "any proposed military exercise involving United States personnel" that is anticipated to involve expenditures of more than $100,000 on construction. Language in Division I, title I, under the headings International Organizations, Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities, disallows the expenditure of funds "for any United Nations peacekeeping mission that will involve United States Armed Forces under the command or operational control of a foreign national," unless my military advisers have advised that such an involvement is in the national interest, and unless I have made the same recommendation to the Congress. In approving this bill, I reiterate the understanding, which I have communicated to the Congress, that I will apply these provisions in a manner consistent with my constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.”
According to the United States Constitution Article1 Section 8 Congress alone has the power "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; to raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years".
With respect to authority as Commander in Chief, Article 2 Section 2 states “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States”.
The constitution is clear that the congress has the power to send the military to war and to make appropriations for the military, not the president. I fail to see how this could interfere with his constitutional authorities.
However, in 2001 John Yoo wrote an opinion titled "THE PRESIDENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO CONDUCT MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST TERRORISTS AND NATIONS SUPPORTING THEM". in it he concluded "In light of the text, plan, and history of the Constitution, its interpretation by both past Administrations and the courts, the longstanding practice of the executive branch, and the express affirmation of the President's constitutional authorities by Congress, we think it beyond question that the President has the plenary constitutional power to take such military actions as he deems necessary and appropriate to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001. Force can be used both to retaliate for those attacks, and to prevent and deter future assaults on the Nation. Military actions need not be limited to those individuals, groups, or states that participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: the Constitution vests the President with the power to strike terrorist groups or organizations that cannot be demonstrably linked to the September 11 incidents, but that, nonetheless, pose a similar threat to the security of the United States and the lives of its people, whether at home or overseas. (32) In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make." This claim gives the president the power to use military force whenever he deems necessary. Is this what the constitution says?
John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”
James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.... [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and ... degeneracy of manners and of morals.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.
The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.
We have heard a lot lately about the president making statements about usurping congressional authority, including items on youtube. In recent remarks he said “Now, I’ve said I will continue to look for every opportunity during the course of this year to work with Congress to move this country forward and create jobs. But we can’t wait. When Congress -- whenever this Congress refuses to act in a way that hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, I’ve got an obligation as President to do what we can without them. I’ve got an obligation to work on behalf of you and the American people. I’m not going to let members of Congress put party ideology ahead of the people that they were elected to serve -- not when there's this much at stake.”
Again at Shaker Heights High School in Ohio on January 4th 2011 he said “But when Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as President to do what I can without them. “ This is clearly in response to his appointment of Richard Cordray without the approval of congress.
"The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing."
"We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts--not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution."
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation."
President James Madison (1751-1836) speech, Virginia Convention, 1788