The President sent a letter to Congress today asking for a resolution of support of US military action in Libya. The letter came on the sixtieth day after the launch of the mission. The War Powers Act allows a President to engage in military action for 60 days without the express authorization of Congress, but only if the enemy represents an imminent threat to the United States, which Libya does not. The White House has used the War Powers Act as a basis for their actions in Libya.
“I wish to express my support for the bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators Kerry, McCain, Levin, Feinstein, Graham, and Lieberman, which would confirm that the Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya and that both branches are united in their commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government,” Obama wrote [...]
“Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort,” Obama wrote. “Such a Resolution is also important in the context of our constitutional framework, as it would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches on this important national security matter.”
In his letter, Obama wrote that the U.S. military is playing a support role now, but its participation is necessary to the success of the NATO-led operation.
“While we are no longer in the lead, U.S. support for the NATO-based coalition remains crucial to assuring the success of international efforts to protect civilians from the actions of the Qaddafi regime,” the president wrote.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said that they had not seen the Senate draft resolution to which Obama referred in the letter. He did not say whether the House would vote on such a resolution. The House Foreign Affairs committee has a hearing on war powers authorization and Libya next week. Some House members, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), are carrying legislation that would mandate Congressional approval for the conflict in Libya.
Members of both parties have said that Congressional authorization is not necessary, which sets a dangerous precedent for future wars. Congress’ cowardice on war powers is a major source of blame for this. Obama, in seeking a resolution of support on the sixtieth day of the mission, is doing about the bare minimum necessary to force Congress’ hand, and still not taking the War Powers Act seriously. Congress needs to do more to force the hand of the executive.