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Congress approves new restriction on US presidents

The U.S. Capitol Building. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 20, 2023

Congress recently approved legislation requiring any future president to receive approval from the Senate or an Act of Congress in order to withdraw the United States from NATO. The legislation was included as part of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

According to The Hill, the legislation, included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, was led by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The Hill reported that the legislation highlights Congress’s firm stance on the importance of the NATO alliance, which has been viewed as an essential alliance since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022.

“NATO has held strong in response to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war in Ukraine and rising challenges around the world,” Kaine said in a statement obtained by The Hill. Kaine explained that the legislation “reaffirms U.S. support for this crucial alliance that is foundational for our national security. It also sends a strong message to authoritarians around the world that the free world remains united.”

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According to Rolling Stone, former President Donald Trump has reportedly had private discussions regarding the possibility of withdrawing the United States from NATO if he is elected president in 2024. The Hill reported that the former president has often been critical of NATO, demanding that other countries besides the United States fulfill their financial obligations to the alliance.

Rubio described the legislation as an important part of congressional oversight, stating, “The Senate should maintain oversight on whether or not our nation withdraws from NATO. We must ensure we are protecting our national interests and protecting the security of our democratic allies.”

While Congress believes it should have oversight regarding the involvement of the United States in NATO, Michael E. O’Hanlon, a Brooking Institution senior fellow, told The Washington Post that there is already precedent for U.S. presidents to withdraw from international treaties without seeking the approval of Congress.

O’Hanlon claimed that a U.S. president “might challenge such an effort and invoke the president’s authorities as commander in chief under Article 2 of the Constitution.” O’Hanlon added, “It would, I think, be uncharted territory if this issue were forced to a confrontation.”