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.