updated 2/28/2007 1:19:22 PM ET 2007-02-28T18:19:22

Former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher will head a private, bipartisan panel to study a lingering and gnawing national question: Who does the Constitution say has the power to begin, conduct and end wars.

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The dispute over the authority to wage war has historically divided presidents, members of Congress and scholars. Through the years, the White House gradually has assumed increased control of U.S. war-making, and it has arisen anew amid the shrill debate in the new Democratic-controlled Congress over President Bush's war buildup in Iraq.

Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., headed the Iraq Study Group that made recommendations last December to the Bush administration on Iraq war policy.

That panel, which was authorized by Congress, achieved wide notice as Bush was considering how to reshape the U.S. role in Iraq, and its findings have been embraced by many members of both parties. Bush ended up deciding to send extra troops to the war zone - essentially ignoring its recommendation that the U.S. remove its combat troops by early next year.

The war powers study is sponsored by the private Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Among its 12 members are Baker, who served under the first President Bush; Christopher, who was in the Clinton administration; Hamilton; former Attorney General Edwin Meese, who was also on the Iraq Study Group; and Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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