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Obama calls for 'patience and persistence' in Libya. Congress calls foul.

In London, President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron praised the NATO mission in Libya, even as US legislators condemn Obama's disregard of the War Powers Act.

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The president’s suggestion that the Libya campaign – and US participation in it – are likely to go on for a while may not be well received in Washington.

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Republicans in both houses of Congress have introduced resolutions declaring the Obama administration in violation of the War Powers Act, 1973 legislation that calls on the president to seek congressional approval in the first 60 days of a military engagement. Obama finally did write a letter to congressional leaders last Friday, asking for congressional support for continued military engagement in Libya, but in the meantime US military participation continues in the absence of congressional approval.

Criticism of Obama’s use of force in Libya is not limited to the Republican side of Congress. Sen. Jim Webb (D) of Virginia said in an interview with Politico Wednesday that “Congress has basically been frozen out” of the US effort in Libya.

In Senate Armed Services Committee testimony Tuesday, Senator Webb said the Libya mission was launched despite the fact that “we were not under attack, we were not under a threat of an attack, we were not implementing a treaty, we were not rescuing American citizens, we were not responding directly to an incident.” Launching hostilities in this context “could set a very disturbing precedent for how decisions are made for the use of force,” he added.

In the Politico interview, Webb never mentioned the UN resolution authorizing international forces to protect Libyan civilians from Qaddafi’s threats, which is the justification both Obama and Cameron have consistently invoked and which they reiterated Wednesday in their London comments.

But Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute in Washington, says Obama has gone farther than recent presidents in disregarding Congress’s constitutional role in war authorization – and he says it’s time for Congress to reassert itself.

“The framers of the Constitution thought that one of the biggest threats to citizens' liberty was incurring the cost – in blood and treasure – of profligate wars, which were started by kings and leaders for their own aggrandizement,” Dr. Eland says. In light of that, “the founders put most of the constitutional war powers, including the power to declare war, in the people's branch of government – the Congress – not the executive,” he adds.

He blames the onslaught of an “imperial presidency” since the Korean War for a usurpation of Congress’s war powers, and adds that Obama's disregard of the War Powers Act is the latest in that process.

Eland says Congress should “reassert its constitutional power” and demand a withdrawal of US forces from the Libya mission – but chances of that happening any time soon look extremely remote.

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