The sparring between Congress and the White House over whether American military involvement in Libya adheres to the War Powers Resolution escalated Thursday when House Speaker John Boehner said a White House report claiming it didn’t need congressional approval for the operation “didn’t pass the straight-face test.”
The White House released a 32-page report to Congress late Wednesday arguing that it did not need authorization from Congress to use U.S. military forces in Libya and was not in violation of the War Powers Resolution – which mandates that the president get authorization from Congress 60 days after engaging in hostilities – because it is supporting a NATO mission in Libya and not technically involved in the type of “hostilities” referenced in the law.
From the report:
The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of “hostilities” contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
The White House said U.S. forces were involved in refueling and support missions, which included some drone airstrikes, but that U.S. soldiers were not on the ground.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent President Obama a letter Tuesday claiming that he will soon be in violation of the War Powers Resolution, as the 90-day mark of the U.S.’ involvement in NATO air strikes in Libya approaches.
Boehner reminded the president that is bound by the Constitution to ensure “laws be faithfully executed,” including the War Powers Resolution:
“Given the mission you have ordered to the U.S. Armed Forces with respect to Libya and the text of the War Powers Resolution, the House is left to conclude that you have made one of two determinations: either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya, or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,” he wrote.
As Politico’s Jonathan Allen reported, Boehner had previously voted to repeal the law in 1995 on the grounds that it excessively hampered the president’s role as commander-in-chief. However, a spokesman for Speaker Boehner said that those views did not contradict the assertion that the president must uphold the laws as they are.
(White House photo)
President Obama is expected to issue a formal response Wednesday. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement that they “are in the final stages of preparing extensive information for the House and Senate that will address a whole host of issues about our ongoing efforts in Libya.”
So what exactly is the The War Powers Act of 1973?
Let’s start at the Library of Congress. They offer an overview this way:
“The Constitution of the United States divides the war powers of the federal government between the Executive and Legislative branches: the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces (Article II, section 2), while Congress has the power to make declarations of war, and to raise and support the armed forces (Article I, section 8). Over time, questions arose as to the extent of the President’s authority to deploy U.S. armed forces into hostile situations abroad without a declaration of war or some other form of Congressional approval. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in the aftermath of the Vietnam War to address these concerns and provide a set of procedures for both the President and Congress to follow in situations where the introduction of U.S. forces abroad could lead to their involvement in armed conflict.”
President Nixon actually vetoed the law in 1973, so the war powers act is a joint resolution of Congress, which has most the same legal effects as a piece of signed legislation. However, as the LOC explains, several U.S. presidents have taken the stance that the resolution is an infringement of executive branch powers - so its authority has often been a matter of debate.
After regaining control of the restive town of Jisr al-Shughour, 12 miles from the border with Turkey, Syria’s government forces appear to be extending their crackdown on protesters and opposition groups to nearby towns, including portions of the northeastern corner of the country that border Iraq. After three months of protests, President Bashar Assad has refused to step down but agreed to limited reforms. The crackdown by security forces in Jisr al-Shughour came as the government appeared to be on the verge of losing control of swaths of residential areas, raising the stakes in the ongoing confrontation.
President Assad has faced growing international pressure, including from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has accused the Syrian government of “savagery”, and from the United States. White House spokesman Jay Carney added to similar calls from State Department officials, telling reporters that “President Assad needs to engage in political dialogue. A transition needs to take place. If President Assad does not lead that transition, then he should step aside.” President Assad has been in office since 2000, when he succeeded his father Hafez.
There are now more than 8,000 refugees in Turkey, in addition to an estimated 1,400 killed and 10,000 detained. Because foreign media have not been allowed to operate in Syria during the unrest, the numbers are based largely on estimates from activist groups.
NATO Bombs Strike Tripoli, Rebels Claim Gains
NATO airstrikes targeted one of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compounds in the capital, Tripoli, Tuesday, as government troops clashed with rebel forces in western Libya near the border with Tunisia. Clashes were reported around the town of Dehiba, which has been a key supply route for the opposition.
NATO, which has recently extended its term by three months, said it cannot commit to not targeting Roman ruins where Gadhafi’s forces are believed to be hiding weapons, according to CNN. As the months have passed, some have expressed concern about the cost and sustainability of the NATO mission, which was originally set to expire on June 27.
On Monday, Germany’s foreign minister said the opposition’s Transitional National Council was the “legitimate representative” of Libya, another boost from the international community after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged African leaders to isolate Gadhafi during a visit to the African Union in Ethiopia.
2 Soldiers Killed in Southern Iraq, Insurgents Storm Government Building
Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday, although the military did not provide details as to how they were killed, bringing the total for June to eight, five of whom were killed in a rocket attack on their base. U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of this year.
After two car bombs exploded outside, gunmen stormed an Iraqi government building in Baquba, killing at least eight people and injuring an unknown number as members of the provincial council had gathered for their weekly meeting. There were reports of hostages being held inside the building.
A similar large-scale attack in Tikrit in March killed 58 people.
Report: Majority of Guns in Mexico Violence Originated in U.S.
A newly released study shows that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico between 2009 and 2010 — many used by violent drug cartels — can be traced back the U.S. Of the 29,284 studied, 15,131 were manufactured in the U.S. and 5,373 made elsewhere but transported through the U.S.
The report was based on numbers tallied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and released by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Feinstein said “Congress has been virtually moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States.”
Mexican authorities have said previously that the U.S. has not taken adequate steps to prevent the spread of weapons across the border. In the last five years, an estimated 35,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war.