Monday, June 20, 2011

War Powers

So what is the War Powers Act? Is Obama Really violating It?

These are two questions that many are asking right now looking at the situation in Libya. The War Powers Act of 1973 is a federal law intended to check the power of the President in committing the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution; this provides that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States. The War Powers Act requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.

The resolution which was controversial at the time, was passed by two-thirds of Congress because President Nixon actually vetoed the law.

President Obama is facing a swell of bipartisan criticism for continuing military engagement in Libya without congressional approval. Even supporters of the Libya intervention have complained that the administration is skirting the law. President Obama defends the legitimacy of the Libyan operation. On Wednesday, he submitted a report to Congress arguing that his administration is not in violation of the War Powers act at all. White House argued that the United States’ “constrained and limited operations” in Libya “do not amount to hostilities” because the United States doesn’t have or intend to place soldiers on the ground and has not sustained the casualties typical of such hostilities.

This despite the fact we know American Boots are on the ground, even if they aren't wearing uniforms.

In side stepping Congress, Obama has overstepped even the precedent set when President Bill Clinton bombed Kosovo in 1999 when the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel asserted that Congress had given its consent by appropriating funds for the Kosovo campaign. It was a big stretch, given the actual facts but Obama can't even take advantage of this same desperate expedient, since Congress has appropriated no funds for the Libyan war. There are a lot of questions that remain out there and members on both sides of the aisle are looking for answers, even if they have legally met their requirements under the War Powers Act which I think remains to be seen.



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