WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance called Monday for a new law requiring the President to consult with Congress before sending troops abroad, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar responded that he would like to consider the idea.
Vance, appearing at one of a series of hearings being conducted as part of the committee's search for a bipartisan consensus on foreign policy, told the panel that the 1973 War Powers Act "needs to be strengthened . . . to make it clear that consultation means consultation."
"Most Presidents haven't truly consulted with Congress before dispatching troops--they have made the decision and then simply informed the congressional leadership," said Vance, who served as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. "When you look at the record, it's a pretty sorry one."
Special Panel Proposed
He proposed that Congress pass a law specifying that consultation should occur before troops are sent. It should provide for a special committee of Senate and House leaders whose advice the President should seek.
Both Lugar (R-Ind.), a conservative, and Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), a liberal, said they plan to discuss the proposal seriously.
"This is an interesting idea," Lugar said. "He (Vance) offered some specific thoughts on what we can do to improve consultation between Congress and the executive."
The Reagan Administration frequently has complained that the War Powers Act, which requires the President to win congressional approval once troops are sent into hostile situations, is an unreasonable check on executive power. Secretary of State George P. Shultz has charged that the congressional debate invoking the act when American troops were under fire in Lebanon last year gave U.S. policy the appearance of a lack of resolve.
Lugar, who supports the Administration on most issues, has said he is "not enthusiastic about the War Powers Act" but that he also believes the White House should consult frequently with Congress.
Vance, now a Wall Street attorney, also told the Senate committee that the United States should make a clearer commitment to nuclear arms control. He condemned President Reagan's proposal for research in defensive anti-missile systems--the "Star Wars" program--as a threat to arms reduction efforts.
"The Soviet reaction to the development and deployment of such a system will almost certainly be a large increase in the number of their offensive missiles, which we then will be compelled to match," Vance said. "Going beyond research would raise huge obstacles to reducing strategic offensive systems."
He also said deployment of the MX missile, anti-satellite weapons and sea-launched cruise missiles would threaten nuclear stability and warned that the increased spending on such systems in the Administration's budget would only prompt greater Soviet military growth in response.
"I do not believe that it will frighten them into changing their positions," Vance said. "I believe the result will be for them to spend more, dollar for dollar."
He appealed for civility in the national debate over foreign policy. "We need to stop caricaturing each other," he said. "To emphasize the need to spend more on defense does not mean that one craves war or is indifferent to its costs. To emphasize arms control does not mean that one is soft-headed or soft on the Soviets."
And true to his word, the former secretary of state criticized the Administration only gently. He congratulated the President for resuming arms control talks with the Soviet Union, and gave him credit--along with Carter--for improving the economy.
Calling for greater emphasis on diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the Third World, Vance noted pointedly, "The Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations all had notable successes, especially in the Middle East." But he made no direct reference to the Administration's difficulties in that area.