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Cooper‐Church Amendment

Cooper‐Church Amendment (1970).During the Vietnam War, President Richard M. Nixon on 30 April 1970 ordered American and South Vietnamese troops to invade Cambodia in order to attack North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front sanctuaries. Nixon defended his action as necessary to carry out his Vietnamization program. In protest, Senators John Sherman Cooper (R‐Ky.) and Frank Church (D‐Idaho) introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act to prohibit the use of American forces in Cambodia after 30 June 1970.

By 1970, the nation was deeply divided concerning the wisdom of the war in Southeast Asia. Senate opposition had been building since 1965, but most members of Congress still yielded to the president. The invasion of Cambodia proved to be the pivotal point for change. In addition to the time limit for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Cambodia, the Cooper‐Church Amendment barred the reintroduction of forces into that nation without express congressional approval. The Nixon administration strove to limit the impact of the proposal, chiefly through a series of modifications sponsored by Robert Dole (R‐Kans.) and Robert Byrd (D‐W. Va.) that would have allowed broad presidential discretion over the deployment of military forces. However, on 30 June the Senate adopted the original amendment in a historic vote of 58 to 37. Under heavy pressure from the White House to weaken the amendment, the House of Representatives did approve a weakened measure in December. The passage of the Cooper‐Church Amendment was a milestone in congressional‐presidential relations, the first time that the Congress had restricted the deployment of U.S. troops during a war. After 1970, congressional debate was now not on whether to withdraw troops from the Vietnam War, but when.


LeRoy Ashby and and Rod Gramer , Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church, 1994.
Randall Bennett Woods , Fulbright, 1995.

David F. Schmitz

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