America

Congress Presses Obama On Libya, As 60-Day War Powers Deadline Arrives

U.S. President Barack Obama leaving the East Room of the White House after delivering a statement about Libya on. After the UN authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, the U.S. and allied forces launched attacks on Gadhafi forces. i i

U.S. President Barack Obama leaving the East Room of the White House after delivering a statement about Libya on. After the UN authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, the U.S. and allied forces launched attacks on Gadhafi forces. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama leaving the East Room of the White House after delivering a statement about Libya on. After the UN authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, the U.S. and allied forces launched attacks on Gadhafi forces.

U.S. President Barack Obama leaving the East Room of the White House after delivering a statement about Libya on. After the UN authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, the U.S. and allied forces launched attacks on Gadhafi forces.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Today marks the 60th day since President Barack Obama formally told Congress about the U.S. intervention in Libya. It matters, because Congress hasn't authorized the action and the 1973 War Powers Act states that if a president doesn't attain that authorization 60 days after the start of military action, the president must halt it within 30 days.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told Fox News that the House was working on a resolution for Monday that "would either get Congress to sign off on intervention in Libya or cut off the operation."

And on Wednesday, Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Tom Coburn (Okla.) and John Cornyn (Texas) sent a letter to Obama asking whether he intended to comply with Section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

"As recently as last week your Administration indicated use of the United States Armed Forces will continue indefinitely," they wrote in the letter. "Therefore, we are writing to ask whether you intend to comply with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. We await your response."

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was committed to complying with the War Powers Act, but that it was also looking for ways to lawfully continue the military intervention without asking Congress to authorize it:

One concept being discussed is for the United States to halt the use of its Predator drones in attacking targets in Libya, and restrict them solely to a role gathering surveillance over targets.

Over recent weeks, the Predators have been the only American weapon actually firing on ground targets, although many aircraft are assisting in refueling, intelligence gathering and electronic jamming.

By ending all strike missions for American forces, the argument then could be made that the United States was no longer directly engaged in hostilities in Libya, but only providing support to NATO allies.

Another option, reports the Times, is to order a complete stop to military efforts and restart them shortly, which lawyers say would buy them 60 more days.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway, professors of law and political science at Yale, argue that Obama is charting new territory here:

Make no mistake: Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors. George W. Bush gained congressional approval for his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bill Clinton acted unilaterally when he committed American forces to NATO's bombing campaign in Kosovo, but he persuaded Congress to approve special funding for his initiative within 60 days. And the entire operation ended on its 78th day.

In contrast, Congress has not granted special funds for Libya since the bombing began, and the campaign is likely to continue beyond the 30-day limit set for termination of all operations.

CNN reports that Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are weighing their options. CNN says Paul and five Republican colleagues are saying they could take the issue before the Supreme Court, which hasn't ruled on the constitutionality of the War Powers Act.

And here's what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office told CNN:

"The administration has done a good job of keeping Congress informed about operations in Libya. U.S. operations appear to be limited and intermittent, but we are examining whether further Senate action is needed," said Jon Summers, Reid's spokesman.

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